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South Valley Journal

Portraits on the porch: Local photographers get in on social media trend

Jun 11, 2020 12:52PM ● By Libby Allnatt

Local photographer Lizzy Williams, pictured with her family, has taken photos of residents across the valley as part of the Front Porch Project trend. (Courtesy of Lizzy Williams)

Libby Allnatt | [email protected]

In a time of isolation for many, South Jordan photographers are striving to bring people together.

The Front Steps Project, as well as variations such as the Front Porch Project, have been circulating on social media as families get their photos taken in a way that’s not so traditional.

“I’m not looking for perfection,” said Lizzy Williams, a Daybreak photographer who started taking part at the beginning of coronavirus when many families were beginning to stay in their homes more than usual.

At a distance, Williams takes photographs of residents outside their own front doors, perched on their steps with smiling faces, sometimes with their furry friends in the shot. It’s a quick process, taking about eight to 10 minutes.

Williams started photographing families in South Jordan and the Daybreak area and then expanded all over the valley.

“This is a time in our history we can choose to remember as hard or as the time we had extra time with people we love,” she said.

Photographer Cara Mathis, who participated in the Front Steps Project in March, also captured families as they were.

“I had one family who wore their robes and brought coffee cups out, like this is reality,” she said.

“We want to remember the reality of this.”

Photographer Carolina Burton said many of the people she captured were excited for the opportunity to dress up.

“A lot of moms are telling me this is a great opportunity to get dressed and get out of leggings and feel pretty,” she said. “I had one client who’s pregnant; she got all dolled up. She felt so good. I was so happy to do that.”

Burton said she has done almost 30 #frontporchproject photoshoots, offering them to any Daybreak resident who’s interested.

The social media sensation has many variations, but it can be traced back to Cara Soulia of Massachusetts, photographer and co-founder of the Front Steps Project an idea sparked by her friend Kristen Collins.

“She told me about her idea of taking pictures of families in a safe way, from a socially distanced place, to document the fact that all these families were home together,” she said. “We would have them be outside of course, on their front steps. That’s a great idea in itself. She said, what if we had them make a contribution to a charity?”

Soulia said the Front Steps Project raised more than $25,000 for the Needham Community Council, a nonprofit in Massachusetts. Then the idea caught on across the country.

“The reason this project exploded is social media,” Soulia said.

While the Front Steps Project is not directly affiliated with every variation of the idea, the group strives to track the progress of #TheFrontStepsProject as much as possible. Members have tracked more than 400 photographers in the U.S. and Canada using the hashtag on Instagram and determined that the project has raised more than $1 million for various causes, including food pantries, hospitals and animal shelters.

Mathis, of Daybreak, said the people she photographed in March donated to a variety of causes they cared about, including one resident who set aside $200 she would otherwise have spent on professional photos but is now doling out to charities in the community.

“One of my favorite things about humanity is when people use their gifts in service of other people,” Mathis said. “This is a great example of that. Not only are you serving the families you’re capturing, but you’re serving your community.”

Williams said she wanted the first 10 families she photographed to make a donation to a program helping get meals to children with schools being closed.

She said the photographs can make us appreciative of where we live.

“The art of being home and appreciating where you live, the four walls, has occurred again,” she said. “The Front Porch Project has been a reminder that these four walls are home.”

Burton said it’s important to capture these memories.

“It’s history,” she said. “I want people to remember that this was a phase, and it’s over. And they can look back and say, “We survived the quarantine. We did it, and that wasn’t so bad.’”