Front porch photo guitar

Twin Lenses Photography owner Tara Young likes to do more than snap portraits when she goes out on a photo shoot.

She also uses her camera to tell stories.

That mindset was at the forefront when she spent two days in April on The Front Porch Project. In order to help alleviate boredom and morale — both hers and that of Monticello residents who have been sheltering in place due to the coronavirus pandemic — she booked 42 drive-by photo appointments in and around Monticello, all taken in family’s front yards with appropriate social distancing.

“I thought this would be fantastic, because we’re not able to go shoot, and people want to remember this time in their lives. I really like to do documentary stuff, more than just still portrait stuff. I thought this would be a great way to document this time,” said Young.

“We also just  wanted to spread joy and to have them pay it forward to other people,” she commented.

With that amount of shoots scheduled over two days, Young asked clients to take more ownership than usual; to come up with their own themes and poses.

They did not disappoint.

“We had people playing guitars, we had people playing banjos, and of course drinking Corona,” added the local photographer.

One family had an old-fashioned tin can and string ‘phone’ to communicate with their neighbor. Another posed kids on the roof. One child — smiling ear to ear — held up a sign that said, “my new teacher is mean,” of course in reference to the home-bound education efforts of the last two months.

Oh, and of course there were plenty of references to the toilet paper shortage.

“They were directing themselves through the whole thing. They had a vision and we shot it,” said Young, who has shot professionally for 10 years. “That’s what was so different for us; usually people ask us to pose them, and we didn’t have to. They really made it their own, and that was probably my favorite part of it. They had a blast.”

“People had so much fun,” she added. 

Some stats from the two days of photo shoots:

— 42 appointments

— No more than 5 minutes at each home

— 9,800 total photos taken

— $0 cost for participants, who all received 35 to 40 photos to download.

“If they felt like they needed to pay us, we’d rather them buy gift cards from a local business in Monticello to support them, and use them for their family, or use them as gifts for someone else,” said Young, who had help from Click Photography Studio partner Mike Heiniger.

In an effort to spread joy and boost morale — five minutes at a time — The Front Porch Project also gave the photographers a creative outlet at a time when paid clients were essentially banned. That eased on May 1, and they can now take photos outdoors as long as there are no more than 10 people gathered.

The business shutdown has been a double-whammy for Young. She is also a dental hygienist who misses her patients.

“I just needed to get out and shoot,” she added.

The Front Porch Project — Boosting Morale 5 minutes at a time,” can be seen online at https://www.twinlensesphotography.com/journal/2020/4/25/boosting-morale5-minutes-at-a-time.