Coronavirus: London, Ont. photographer offering 'porch portraits' to those self-isolating

Shanna Culhane wouldn’t normally stand 10 or more feet away from the people she’s photographing, but these aren’t normal times.

With the number of cases and deaths from COVID-19 increasing every day, it’s a necessity, especially as the government orders people to self-isolate and stay apart physically, and workplaces to close unless essential.

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As it has for many workers, the pandemic and its social and economic effects have been hard on London-area photographers who have seen bookings either cancelled or postponed.

Enter ‘Porch Portraits.’

The photographic initiative, spearheaded by Massachusetts photographer Cara Soulia, is as simple as it sounds: a portrait of you and your family, all from the safety of your front porch.

Culhane, who operates Lace&Lavender Photography in London, said she learned of Soulia’s endeavor through a friend.

“I hummed and hawed and decided, yeah, I need to do this,” Culhane told 980 CFPL’s Mike Stubbs on Thursday.

“I need a little joy in my own life, and I think a lot of people in our community could use joy.”

Courtesy Lace&Lavender Photography

Courtesy Lace&Lavender Photography

Courtesy Lace&Lavender Photography

After putting a call out on her Facebook and Instagram, Culhane said 35 families reached out to her saying they wanted their own porch portraits. Thirty-two ended up having their pictures taken, after the province’s state of emergency declaration forced her to reschedule the planned sessions from Mar. 20 to Mar. 24.

Culhane says the sessions are free of charge.

“No money, no contact, just love,” reads a post on the Lace&Lavender Facebook page. “All I ask is you make a donation to London’s Food Bank.”

Clients are notified five minutes ahead of time through text message, and the sessions themselves last five to 10 minutes.

“With a lot of kids I always say, ‘Hi, my name is Shanna. It rhymes with banana.’ That usually helps,” Culhane said of getting subjects to smile.

“Or, you know, people are just happy to see the sunshine, and natural smiles happen. Tickling your kids is always fun inside or out. so that’s a big tactic I use.”

She isn’t the only local photographer shooting porch portraits, and the initiative is springing up in locales all over, including Windsor, Calgary, and Edmonton, to name just a few Canadian cities.

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

Culhane plans to continue, but says she will abide by government rules to keep her and her subjects safe.

“We have to respect what to say, and we have to respect the health minister, and everybody’s health, at the end of the day, is what matters most right now,” she said.

“Myself and a couple other photographers in the city, we’ve either postponed or pre-planned and are starting to take bookings so that we can provide another day when it is safe to do so and we’re allowed to.”

Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

Health officials caution against all international travel. Returning travellers are legally obligated to self-isolate for 14 days, beginning March 26, in case they develop symptoms and to prevent spreading the virus to others. Some provinces and territories have also implemented additional recommendations or enforcement measures to ensure those returning to the area self-isolate.

Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.

To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out.

For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, click here.

© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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