By Anita Buzzy Prentiss
On March 13, 2020, it seemed like everywhere I turned, things were being canceled, shut down and restricted because of the coronavirus quarantine.
My photography business was at a standstill. I was not able to have clients in my studio and hence, no income. My daughters’ schools were closed. My husband came home to work remotely. For a good three weeks, we spent time at home together, trying to get used to a new normal. Everything had changed.
I felt confused, sad and completely cut off from my true gift — photographing people and capturing love and life. Then my best friend sent me a news story of a photographer in another city doing “porch portraits” at no charge — for donations — and I thought, this is a brilliant idea, and decided to go for it.
I took a porch portrait of my best friend then sent it out to my email newsletter list, posted it on Facebook, and have been busy ever since. In the last week, I have been all over the city and have photographed approximately 50 “porchraits” (my husband came up with that term) with least 60 people on the waiting list, and more requests coming in. I hope to get to every single person on the list before this quarantine ends.
I map out my route so that I can hit 5-10 locations within a few hours. I text them when I pull up, hop out, take pictures for about 10 minutes from at least 10 feet away with my zoom lens, and send them a gallery of photos a few days later.
They have the option of sending a donation through PayPal or Venmo, but I am happy to do it even if they are not able to. So many of us are struggling right now, especially artists, with no income at all. I am happy to share my gift. It makes me so happy to make other people happy when so many people feel so scared and uncertain.
The best thing about this process is feeling the warmth and love amongst the people who are quarantined together. We are making memories in our homes that we will absolutely never forget. I am getting so many comments like: “We are so grateful to have photos so we can remember this time,” “This is the first time I put actual pants on in two weeks,” “We were so looking forward to this photoshoot — we haven’t been looking forward to anything for a while now,” “It’s so nice to see a smiling face! In person!” and “I would hug you if I could!!”
I drive away laughing, and crying, and both. So many birthdays, weddings, funerals, babies being born, Bar mitzvahs, and countless important events where families can’t see their extended families and friends except on a screen. Driving through the empty streets of our city makes me feel empty and so weird, but I am happy that I can share my gift of taking great pictures of people and capture their love.