Alberta photographers bring ‘porch portraits’ to residents in self-isolation

Click to play video: 'Calgary Cares: Porchraits capture special smiles during coronavirus self-isolation'
Calgary Cares: Porchraits capture special smiles during coronavirus self-isolation
WATCH: It’s a smile from a social distance, capturing some amazing moments in Calgary. Lauren Pullen has more on the “porchraits” initiative in the city during the coronavirus pandemic – Mar 24, 2020

Several Alberta photographers are bringing photoshoots to people’s doors, as residents continue to practice social distancing and isolate due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Over the last week, Calgary photographer Neil Zeller has taken to the streets, offering full photoshoots outside people’s homes as part of the #porchrait initiative.

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The photoshoots offer family portraits whilst still complying with AHS social distancing regulations. It’s an initiative that Zeller said is fun for everyone involved.

“It’s pure joy. The reactions are pure joy,” Zeller said.

“I had one little guy tell me that he’s been working on his hair. He’s seven and he’s been working on his hair all day long, just waiting for me to show up.”

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Zeller said he uses zoom lenses to craft high-quality photographs all the while maintaining a safe distance.

“We can take photos through your windows, from the front porch or driveway, even from your condo balcony, all from way beyond social distancing requirements,” Zeller said in a post on Saturday.

“We’ll make fun, serious, beautiful or silly photos of you and your family, pets too!”

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Zeller is offering the photoshoots free of charge to all vulnerable populations. As for other residents, Zeller said there’s no set fee, but he is accepting donations for each #porchrait.

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It’s being seen as a fun escape from Calgary resident’s new isolated reality, and Zeller said he has a waiting list of more than 300 people. He’s encouraging more photographers in the area to get involved.

The idea came from a similar initiative in Yellowknife, where photographer Pat Kane offered to take photographs of residents through their windows.

Since Zeller brought the initiative to Calgary, the idea has spread to surrounding communities, including Edmonton and Canmore.

Meike Ricardo’s family had a “porchtrait” session at her Edmonton home on Wednesday, March 25, 2020. Mike Isaak

Edmontonian Meike Ricardo had a “porchtrait” session at her home on Wednesday afternoon, shot by photographer Mike Isaak.

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“It’s been really tough to have the whole family cooped up inside,” Ricardo said.

The photography session helped capture a unique moment in her family’s life.

“What better way to commemorate these next few weeks — or maybe months — of being together than with a nice family photo?”

She also said it’s been a reminder to celebrate an abundance of family time.

“I asked our five-year-old son how he felt about all of this. He told me he felt lucky to be at home with us. That put things into perspective.”

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Photographer Jake Bradley has been doing his shoots for free, encouraging participants to donate to their local food bank.

“My [work schedule] for spring was completely booked, then overnight it felt like it all got cancelled. I wondered what I was going to do with myself,” Bradley said. “More people are using the food bank, this is a good way to help the community.”

St. Albert resident Shayla McRitchie said she was happy to donate to the St. Albert Food Bank after her family’s photoshoot.

“We know a lot of people that have been laid off and we know it’s probably a very busy place right now.

Shayla McRitchie’s family porch portrait in St. Albert, Alta. Jake Bradley

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