Kirkwood Photographer Offers Free Family Portraits During Lockdown–From A Distance

When asked what they saw in their portrait, this family responded, “I see a family that has been through a lot in a few short years, a family that had overcome unforeseen obstacles, a family that is thriving despite everything.”

Chanda Williams

Being stuck inside, homeschooling kids while teleworking and all the other realities of lockdown during COIVD-19 might not be something everyone wants to remember vividly.

But for Chanda Willaims’ Kirkwood community, it’s a moment they’ll be able to look back on forever – for better or worse.

Williams is a photographer who is used to shooting families in times of joy and new beginnings, but she also takes pride in documenting the regular moments. As social distancing became a part of everyday life, she began offering free, front porch, family photos to her neighbors.

“I think it’s important to document family and life in general always, and this is just a very specific kind of moment. Normally, I would be very close to a family in their house and spending a long time with them. Now, I just have little peeks into their life from far away, and I think that speaks to the moment,” Williams said.

After shooting more than 200 lockdown portraits in just a few weeks, Williams decided she also wanted to include her neighbors’ perspectives during all of this by asking them, “What do you see when you look at your portrait?”

The answers give a deeper look into how her community is dealing with the crisis. Some families are dealing with being separated, others are frontline hospital workers, and some are just trying to get by.

“I love the variation in responses. Some people see a family who is really struggling and others say, ‘Wow, I’m rocking this,’” Williams said.

The portraits also tend to redefine what “family” can mean. The subjects include single parents, fur babies, parties of one and LGBTQ roommates who consider each other their biggest support system.

When talking about the inspiration for the project, Williams said her own family’s experience in solitude moved her to get out and start shooting from a distance. She said, “I started to notice that my family was pulling together in a way that was really beautiful. My boys were hanging out more, and we were all connecting in a way that our busy lives didn’t really allow us to before.”

While Williams understands this is a difficult time for many artists, both creatively and financially, she wants to encourage people to continue to create during this time.

She admits she didn’t have a fully realized vision for the project at first but forced herself to jump in and start shooting. The response from her neighbors was overwhelmingly positive. Now, she’s averaging 10 family portraits per day and doesn’t plan on stopping anytime soon.


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