Family Photos on the Front Steps

posted in: COVID-19 | 0

With the latest round of restrictions on gatherings and recommendations for social distancing, families are getting a lot more “together time” than they may have had in the past. A photographer in Needham, MA saw an opportunity here: to document families during this time on their front steps. The photographer stays a safe distance away (6-10′ with a telephoto lens) and the family gets a memory of their quarantine. Some photographers are even raising money for charities by encouraging families to make a donation in lieu of a fee for their photo.

Stuck at home, like everyone else, and looking for ways to interact safely with people while flexing the old photo muscles, I thought this sounded like a good idea, too. So I set out into my neighborhood grabbing quick photos of families on their front steps.

It’s so interesting how different these sessions are from “real life!” Typically, when I photograph a family, it’s about an hour, outside (I always prefer to be outside), but with lots of interactions, playing, laughing, talking. Some close up photos, and some taken farther away. But lots of process. Lots of trying out poses and setups, lots of looking for the right light and waiting for just the right interaction.

These porch photos are nothing like that! First they are fast: 5 minutes really per family, since we just are doing one quick group and then moving on. Second, they are very informal. These are not dress-up-for-the-camera photos, but rather meant to be a snapshot in time that will answer the question: What did your family look like during the quarantine of 2020? And third, the light is completely and totally unpredictable! Normally, I am scouting portrait locations looking for just the right light and moving people accordingly. With these shots, I show up having no idea what kind of light someone gets on their front steps at 4:45 in the afternoon. The photographer has little control.

Maybe that is good for me.

Portrait photography is all about control. It’s all about managing the light, the background, the posing, the angles, the depth of field.

Front steps photos are like snapshots taken with those disposable film cameras. No control. No preparation. An exercise in letting go. A way of adapting to the new normal we are all finding.

I am loving it. If you live in Roslindale, Jamaica Plain, West Roxbury, or Mattapan and would like to participate, send me a note! Sessions are fast, free, and – dare I say it – a little bit of fun during these long, uncertain days.

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