With weddings and other events canceled or postponed, thousands of photographers in Virginia are idle, but in Charlottesville five shutter bugs are busier than ever – documenting the great pandemic.
“Alright, I’m going to take a photo now," says photographer Eze Amos. "Are you guys ready? Good! Now smile.!"
He is a hustler in the best sense of the word – always finding new ways to use his skills as a photographer.
“Here we go. Who’s smiling?” he laughs as his shutter clicks.
When the COVID crisis hit, Amos called another camera pro – Kristen Finn – and they launched the Front Porch Portrait Project -- offering to come by people’s houses and snap pictures.
They would ask for donations – from no payment at all to $250. Within days they had 260 requests.
“I was thinking it was just going to be something fun for us to do as photographers," he recalls, " but it just blew up in our faces, so we reached out to three other brilliant photographers – Sarah Cramer, Tom Daly and John Robinson.”
The other photographers were delighted.
“It’s a cool way to keep out there in the community and give back not only with photos but also with conversation which I think people are very starved for right now," says Daly.
“This is what I do, so getting out and telling the stories of the people behind whatever is going on – whether it be a pandemic or a wedding or a business," Cramer explains. "I’m in my happy place when I’m documenting the people of Charlottesville.”
The idea seemed to please residents as well.
“I see them just come out of the door smiling," Amos says. "They’re happy that there’s somebody there to interact with them, even though we’re doing it from afar.”
And, he adds, there is a sense of history in the making – a chance for people to document how they survived the COVID pandemic.
“Nobody’s happy that they’re home right now, but somehow we all want to remember this time. I never thought of anything like this ever happening – ever, and here we are.
For some, the family portrait is a gift.
“I photographed a kid’s birthday, because they couldn’t go out for the birthday, so they just stood on their balcony with a sign that said the kid’s name and happy birthday. There was a violin player who stood right outside their door playing happy birthday songs, and the neighbors came out of their apartments, and they were all cheering them on.”
And Daly says more may come of this – maybe a book, or a podcast.
“A lot of times we’ve been kind of running and gunning and just taking their portraits and moving on, but there’s also a lot of stories to be had here, so I think maybe getting some audio in this project would be nice, and just hearing about how people are dealing with their quarantine situation.”
Cramer is quick to add that the team is careful to maintain a social distance from their subjects, although it’s sometimes a painful moment.
“I am a very affectionate person. I love hugs, and it’s very hard for me when little kids start running up. They want a hug, and I can’t!”
But they are busy enough to give something else – sending 50% of their profits to a local fund for unemployed artists.
For more information, contact AmosEze@gmail.com.