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Coronavirus: Photography association calls for pause on ‘porch portraits’

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WATCH: A national photography association is calling on photographers to stop so-called ‘porch portrait’ sessions due to health and safety concerns. As Emily Olsen reports, the group is receiving some backlash from photographers who say it isn’t their place to make such a demand – Apr 13, 2020

Professional Photographers of Canada is calling for a pause on so-called “porch portrait” sessions due to health and safety concerns amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

READ MORE: Coronavirus deaths in Canada hit 780, total cases surpass 25,000

“I understand that photographers are suddenly cut off from most ‘in real life’ social contact and thus their clients, but this type of photography is not a necessary interaction nor is it an essential service,” the release said on April 8.

“Although most do it with the very best of intentions, it still leaves room open for mistakes that could potentially cost lives. Some photographers may knock on the door or ring the doorbell, pass someone in the street, a child could run over to hug them or their built-in photographer instinct to go over and fix hair, pose the client and assist could easily kick in.

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PPOC officials said the decision to send out a news release was made following several email complaints from members and non-members who allegedly witnessed risky practices in their own communities.

“I’ve been getting private messages and emails from other photographers saying, ‘There’s one person here doing 20 or 30 a day,'” national director Louise Vessey said Monday.

“We’re not saying you can never do this, stop it [and] completely cancel the program. We’re saying let’s just wait, let’s just wait until it’s safe to do so.”

READ MORE: Porch photography by Lethbridge woman brings joy to Garry Station community

Alberta director Chris Thombs said he has also heard about concerning practices.

“We saw some photographers bringing whiteboards to their photoshoots and handing them off to their clients,” Thombs said.

“We’ve also seen grandparents that do not live with the family travelling to be part of these portraits.”

The group said since the news release, it has received backlash from photographers who say it isn’t the association’s place to make such a demand.

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Global News reached out to several photographers for comment. None wanted to be interviewed, but one commented that many are frustrated with the announcement because the PPOC has no official jurisdiction or governing authority and is scaring photographers who are not part of the PPOC membership.

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

Vessey said she hears these concerns but said the association is simply trying to put out a responsible recommendation based on official health mandates.

“We’re not the photographer police,” Vessey said. “But I’ve had enough people, members and non-members really concerned about all these photographers driving all over different neighbourhoods doing this that we felt we had to put out a news page about it.”

Vessey said that there will be opportunities for portraits like these later on to mark the end of a trying time for Canadian families.

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