Front Porch Portraits Yield Memories, Donations

Dear TRENDS Diary,

A friend of mine saw a post from a woman in Massachusetts who was going around and taking pictures of people on their front steps, super casual. I’m following what she’s doing: Standing at a distance and shooting. It takes maybe five minutes; mine tend to take 10 because I’m chatty.

It spread by word of mouth. I organize every morning and make a plan: where I’m going when. I try to go by neighborhood and do a bunch in a short amount of time.

I photograph these families on their front steps, or however they want to be photographed. I come home, delete the bad ones, enhance at least one I love and send it back to the family over email. They make a good-faith offer to donate to charity in Boulder that’s helping with the pandemic; whatever they feel like doing. I don’t get involved in the money part at all, although people ask for recommendations and I like to support Community Foundation Boulder County, especially now that it’s being matched.

Most people have a nonprofit in mind. That’s one of the great things, is that I’ve learned about so many new organizations out there helping people. I had to let that go.

When it comes to my work as a portrait artist, I’m kind of a perfectionist: the lighting has to be just right. When you go out for a family shoot, it’s way more elaborate. It’s been set up two weeks in advance and you’re watching the weather. These shoots are not something super big and formal, and we’re getting such genuine smiles and genuine warmth.

The people are so happy. They’re so appreciative. It’s like the happiness project. I think it makes them appreciate the time they have with all their kids, even if they’re stressed out.

- Timolyn Esson, as told to Shay Castle