This is long, buckle up.
There is a lot of circulation about these "front porch sessions", Photographers rallying together for their communities to document this chapter in history. There is a lot of negative comments flying around, the creative community is up in arms with each other. Is it right and a good deed for the community, or are those photographers doing these sessions just trying to get ahead all while putting lives at risk?
Many of you know I am a professional photographer, I specialize in documenting newborns through their first year along with children's brands. I am a non-essential business, which means for the time being - I am not operating. Thats tough. Realize, that every single creative who relies on their clients to support their family is in a pure state of panic right now. Photographers are reaching in all directions to figure out how they will make it in the coming months because, let's be real - None of us are going to be able to safely operate until we have no confirmed cases for a while - where ever we are located. We don't know where this ends or even how we will put the pieces back together...or even if we will be able to at all. - Before we dive in though, let me say that my heart goes out to every single worker on the front lines, away from their families to protect and treat ours. I was once in the medical field and I have the highest level of respect for everyone who is essential that is holding this country up on their shoulders.
Now, that leads me to these "front porch sessions" - Let me be clear, it is illegal, and unethical to charge people for images related to this crisis we are in. People are out of jobs (including photographers which does not give you the right to capitalize on this pandemic) and conducting operations like this is a sneaky way to get around the orders in place. It is wrong, and that is plain and simple.
With that out of the way let's cover the other issues I have come across, the recommendation for social distancing is a minimum of six feet. Yes, I said minimum. There is huge risk in walking door to door and treading that minimum. Factors of wind blowing, some are infected and asymptomatic, and let's be real - six feet is the minimum they think large droplets can go. The distance small droplets can go in a gust of wind is up for debate (bur for the record it is more than six feet).
Social distancing however, does not mean you can't leave your home. Here, our governor recommended outdoor physical activity alone, going on a walk with those in your household, essential commutes, short drives alone to catch your breath after a long day. - Before you come here and tell me going on a drive alone for mental health is not essential I will stop you right there. - We are all in a situation where we are parenting, working from home, homeschooling all at the same time - parents are feeling defeated, stressed, pressure beyond belief and reaching for some kind of normalcy. Everyone needs a way to make their empty, emotional cup full again. Everyone is coping differently, depression is at an all time high, taking care of your mental health is incredibly important during this time of uncertainty.
See, there is a right and wrong way to do these front porch sessions, I know because Iv'e done them without treading that risky line. The ones that are not doing this project safely are giving it a bad reputation to those of us who are. I spoke with my HOA and had a conversation with the local PD, I spoke with my attorney and my business insurance. We have a medically fragile child and three in our home with asthma and I was not willing to risk my family's health, so I did everything I needed to and went to extremes to safely and legally do this project. - Before you rip me apart let me explain, I had strict guidelines I had to follow. 30 feet at a minimum from the families (more in most cases), they had to stay on their porch and I stay in my Tahoe and photograph out of the sun roof with a long lens. I am not charging for anything, families don't have the option to purchase additional images, signs are not being passed around and I refused to document neighbors congregating.
Doing this type of journalism has been a crucial part of maintaining a healthy mentality for me. Some of you may say that regardless of how far I am that it is still risky, that me telling others to stay home but not doing it myself is me being a hypocrite. That giving these images for free is setting the expectation that our industry is framed around hand-outs, that I am trying to get a step ahead of the rest. I can promise you that is not the case, many families that have signed up have said "we have a family session for fall but we would love one image of this season of life" and because they live in my neighborhood they signed up - I didn't do this to get a step above the rest or take another photographers clients (cause let's be honest this isn't my absolute best work). I did it because it is sadly history in the making, because I love this community I call home, because going on a drive instead of a walk after a long day with my camera is the best way for me to feel good, to refill my cup. We take precautions if we need to get gas (which I have not needed to do for the project), I stay further away than I would be if I walked into a store, or crossed paths with someone on their evening walk. I follow the orders in place, I respect the the local PD that are working hard to enforce closures of parks and group gatherings, I haven't left my home or my car or been less than 15 feet from anyone who isn't living in my home since our daughter came home from the hospital early last month.
If you are documenting this project and treading the line of six foot social distancing, stop. If you are a photographer charging people for any images during this crisis, stop. If you are a photographer bashing other photographers who are doing this project, stop and educate. Lastly, if you aren't a photographer know that no one with a camera should be charging you for this, no one should be coming to your home and tread that six foot line, it is not worth the risk.
What you should do, is understand that photographers need you. We need you to share our images we have taken for you in the past, or show them support by liking and sharing images to help with "marketing" your photographer - because so many can't afford to continue running ads right now. There are ways to help creatives hold value in what we do, know that those of us doing this for free does not mean that when we come back to the surface that what we do isn't valuable. We document some of the most important moments of your lives. Just because we are deemed not essential right now (which I fully support and agree with) does not mean what we do isn't essential in other ways, for our families and for yours. So yes, stay home, keep your future sessions with your photographer, or book a session - even if the date is tentative. You focus on what matters now, and we will really focus on your family once this is all over.
We are all in this together, not to get ahead of one another, and no one wants to risk lives. So do this right creatives, or don't do it at all - and for the love of golden hour please stop bashing one another and get your facts right about the law, the orders, and ethics. Above all, be kind & love your neighbor (from more than six feet of course!) Do good, feel good - because together we are better.
Thanks for coming to my Ted Talk.
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