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Photographers criticized for taking socially-distanced pictures during lockdown

Posted at 4:51 PM, Apr 30, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-30 17:20:35-04

You've probably seen the Front Porch Project pictures all over social media.

Precious moments, documented in in pictures, memorializing a historical time. But those family photos aren't without controversy.

Southern California photographer Nola Fontanez got the idea from another photographer on the East Coast. She put a call out on her Instagram page, and she was flooded with requests. She captured families having fun, hanging out of their houses, dancing, hugging, riding bikes and laughing. Some took pictures with rolls of toilet paper and masks. Some threw laundry in the air.

“I said whoever writes me, the first 20, that’s what I’m going to do,” she said. “I did a legit old-school list. Figured out who lives in what towns and we did a caravan.”

For two days, she drove around with her kids, capturing images and moments in seconds.

Other photographers around the country are doing the same and from a social distance. Many are donating the proceeds to small businesses or to people in need.

“I just Venmoed a mom. She’s a single mom who said she could either pay bills or feed her kids. I sent her money,” Fontanez said.

The movement started drawing accolades, and then, criticism from complete strangers.

"They said it was disrespectful for me to go out of my house and expose anybody to coronavirus, and I don’t think people understand I don’t leave my Jeep,” she said. “My daughter’s out the window. We were across the street. She used a megaphone so people could hear.”

For photographers like Fontanez, not working has been devastating, financially and otherwise.

Nicole Williams, of the Long Beach, California based Pure Sugar Photography, hasn't been able to do newborn or milestone sessions, a passion of hers.

“I feel heartbroken for all those mamas who are missing out on a once in a lifetime thing,” she said. “They’re only so small for such a small amount of time where you can get those shots.”

For Williams, she was unable to celebrate her own son's first birthday.

“My heart broke, and I know it’s just a first birthday and I know you can do it again,” she said. “It’s not like the high school seniors. That’s devastating, but birthdays are a big deal to me and your baby only turns 1 once.”

So, she said instead of crying, she staged a quarantine first birthday photo shoot.

“Maybe if people just get a good chuckle out of this, we can laugh about it because it’s really a bummer,” she said.

She posted the images on the social media site Nextdoor, a place that definitely draws discussion amongst neighbors.

“It gets a little feisty on there, sometimes, with everyone locked-up tensions are high,” she said. “They’re arguing about toilet paper and wear a mask and don’t wear a mask, and I wanted to bring a smile and remind them there are bigger things other than not being able to find toilet paper."

And bigger problems then whether your photographer is far enough away.

“I just have to remind myself people are not going to like it and that’s OK," Fontanez said.