The year is 2020 and the front porch is the new outer edge of American life.
Holed up in our homes during a historic pandemic, fresh air is now at a premium, open space — even just a sliver of it — newly prized.
Enter porch picnics, porch talks, porch songs, porch yoga, and the front porch family portrait, a growing photographic movement to capture us in our new natural state — standing in our shrunken worlds surrounded by the only people we’re allowed to share them with.
We talked with Orlando photographer David Lawrence about his “pandemic porchraits” and this is what he had to say.
Pulptown: Where did the idea of “Porch Portraits” come from?
David: I got the idea from a photographer I know and follow online named Taylor Jones. He lives in Tacoma, Washington and posted photos of himself doing film portraits from a distance of people in his neighborhood. He said he was doing it all on a donation basis. I’ve spent years at this point shooting film and it clicked into my head that I could do the same.
For the last year, I’ve done Polaroid portrait pop-ups where I would set up a studio in public places. People can sit for a photo on a sliding scale basis and leave with a physical film portrait. I took that idea and just made it a mobile thing, where I come to you!
Pulptown: Why do people want these photos?
David: Simply put, we are in a weird time that is unlike anything most people have ever experienced. People will want to remember this time years from now in a way that can be easily accessed and told to others. A one of a kind physical image is the perfect way to do that.
Pulptown: How many of these photos have you done?
David: I’ve done about 20 so far.
Pulptown: How are you adhering to social distancing policies?
David: I’m washing my hands constantly, wearing a mask and keeping 10-15 ft from my subject while taking the photo! Nothing is perfect, but I’m seriously trying to do my best to be safe about it.
Pulptown: Are you charging?
David: I have a suggested price of $25-$50.00 a photo. I ask people to pay what you think is fair in that ballpark.
Pulptown: Where have you taken photos so far (neighborhoods) and how far are you willing to drive?
David: Colonialtown, Winter Park, Thornton Park, and Lake Underhill. I’ll go anywhere within 15 minutes of the Mills/50 area. I really am trying to stay close to home and not go too far out of my neighborhood with respect to the seriousness of everything. But, reach out!
Pulptown: How have you seen these photo sessions affect the families?
David: People have exclaimed with joy when I’ve handed them the photos. So many people have also said that it gave them something to look forward to during the day and that it also gave them a way to remember this strange time.
A young couple recently had a baby and thought they weren’t going to be able to get a photo with him. So that’s super cool and makes me feel warm inside to know that they have something beyond a cell phone photo of them together in front of their home!
The main thing I’ve seen is joy, undoubtedly.
Pulptown: How long do you expect this project to last?
David: I’m primarily a studio portrait and event photographer. Currently, this is most of my income so I plan to keep at it until I can have people in my studio again. Who knows when that will be. It could be weeks or months. For now, I’m riding it out with no direct end in sight.
Pulptown: Is this sustainable for you?
David: That’s a tricky question. I’m definitely making money doing it and people have been reaching out almost daily online for one. But will the novelty wear off or will the virus get so bad that I can’t go out at all? I don’t know. My pop-ups provided a good amount of income when I was doing them over the last year, but it’s all up in the air.
Being a self-employed, freelance artist has shown me that nothing is really truly sustainable. I’ve had jobs canceled that we planned for weeks in advance with a day’s notice. I’ve also seen large jobs fall out of the sky with no warning at all and pay my rent literally days before the bill was due. I hope for the best always but hold everything loosely. Nothing is certain when you are self-employed.
I also use an expired film that is no longer in production and have probably about 400 or so shots left. When it runs out, I’ll try and get more, but the cost is always rising. So, who really knows?
Pulptown: What else are you doing to stay afloat right now?
David: I recently started a collaborative print company called “Better Days Print Co”. We Sell and print the work of local artists for you to hang in your office and home. Currently there are 9 different photographers and designers who have submitted work to sell.
We sell their art with the intention of reminding you, while we are in hard times, better days are coming. When a print is sold online, we print the artist’s work and ship it without them having to do any work beyond submitting a file and promoting it online! Depending on the piece, 40%-70% of each sale goes into the artist’s pocket!
I’ve also been able to sell my phone work on this and it has helped to bring in extra income as well! Even more than that, it has been cool to give local artists some income too. We’ve had almost 30 different orders come in since we started last month!
You can check out David’s work at www.iamdavidlawrence.com or follow him on Instagram at @iamdavidlawrence. And if you prefer reaching out via a good old-fashioned email, he’d welcome that at firstname.lastname@example.org
Are you a local photographer who is taking “porchraits” or have found other creative ways to document the times and maybe also trying to sustain a business? We want to hear from you! Send us an email at email@example.com, subject line: I take photos too.