It was early May, and the country was still locked down in quarantine. Laramie photographer Rose Curtis had hardly seen anyone for weeks. An acquaintance stopped by, and she opened the door and stood on the porch talking to him as he remained on the sidewalk many feet away.
It struck her that from her perspective, with the door flung open, the scene was the epitome of welcoming. But the reality was far from that; nobody but she and her roommate had stepped foot in their place for weeks.
“At that moment I decided I wanted to photograph people in their doorways, on their porches or in front of the habitats they had been confined to during quarantine,” she said.
The following day, she shot her first portrait: a friend down the street. That’s all it took, she said, for her to decide to turn it into a larger project. “Porch Portraits” was born.
Over the summer, Curtis has made portraits of professors and young families, of artists and researchers and professionals as they cope with the drastic new realities of life during a pandemic.
Along with taking photographs, she posed this question: In what ways has quarantine changed you and what has remained unchanged during this time of crisis?
The images and answers that have resulted hold a spectrum of emotions and experiences — many familiar.
“Every part of life has slowed down,” Ammon Medina answered. “I’m more intentional with my time and am able to lean on my small community more when it’s all hard.”
With the closure of traditional gathering spaces like bars and cafes, John Wilhelm has come to appreciate a third kind of public space, he told Curtis.
“I have now grown a new appreciation for the public parks, town squares and city streets,” he wrote. “In taking the place of bars, cafès and dancehalls our shared spaces have taken on a new shared humanity to me.”
The COVID-19 pandemic caused Neely Mahapatra to slow down, she said.
“Social distancing and quarantine have helped me to pause, appreciate those small things around me (e.g. enjoy the lilacs for the first time in the garden), introspect, reflect, put myself on my priority list if not on the top of my priority list and take care of myself,” she wrote.
Anne Mason has struggled with isolation and grown more grateful for the time with her immediate family, she told Curtis.
“Perhaps felt most deeply is my desire for human contact, which has accelerated at an exponential rate,” she wrote. “The less I can be around other people, the more I ache for their physical presence.”
For Curtis, the project has offered a rare chance to meet new people and interact with acquaintances, and taught her that while everyone’s circumstance is different, there’s power in the shared experience. “There’s always something beautiful, meaningful and uplifting to take away from hard times,” she said.
She hopes the project engenders kinship.
“I want to inspire human connection during this time when I know many people feel disconnected from their community,” she said. “My hope is that by seeing familiar and new faces and by reading about similar and especially dissimilar experiences … an increased feeling of connectedness and empathy will spread.”
The project is ongoing; Curtis says at this rate, she will likely be shooting well into 2021. Email [email protected] or reach her through Facebook or Instagram if you are interested in having your portrait taken.