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La Jolla photographer’s ‘front porch’ sessions net $8,000 for Feeding San Diego

An example of Cristina Schaffer's at-home "front porch photography" images.
(Courtesy)

In her “front porch photography” sessions, La Jolla resident Cristina Schaffer has seen it all: messages of encouragement, masked families, screaming babies. All documentation of a time in which most of us are confined to our homes.

Adhering to federal and state social distancing mandates, Schaffer takes portraits of people on their front porch, driveway, balcony or looking out their front window. As a form of payment, she asks that at least $20 be given to Feeding San Diego.

“I drive up to the family’s home, then I text or call them on my cellphone to let them know I have arrived,” Schaffer said. “I bring my big lenses so I can stay at least 10 to 12 feet away while we create their front porch portrait. Some people wear their comfy clothes and slippers, others use masks or glasses of wine as props, some stay inside and smile through their windows. Everyone is happy for a small break in their day to connect and take photos. I think it helps give everyone a mental break from the isolation or stress from being confined at home all day. Everyone will have a memento of this historical time and feel happy that they are donating to a cause that is helping the greater good.”

An example of Cristina Schaffer's front porch portraits.
“I think it helps give everyone a mental break from the isolation or stress from being confined at home all day,” Cristina Schaffer says about her front porch portraits.
(Courtesy)

Schaffer added that the photos could serve as a sort of time capsule. “I ask everyone if they want to wear a mask in at least one of the photos,” she said. “My hope is, 20 years from now, people will look back on these photos to remind them about 2020 and all that it was. It’s a way to record this period of time. It’s like keeping newspaper clippings.”

Some, Schaffer said, have opted for full makeup and nice clothes for a family portrait to hang on the wall. Others have held signs reading “Stay safe” or “Black lives matter.”

Some who get their front porch portrait taken hold signs serving as reminders of what was going on at the time.
(Courtesy)

One family’s baby was crying when she arrived, she said. “I told them I could wait until the little boy calmed down, but his dad said, ‘This is what I live with every day, so take the picture.’ It documented what he was going through at that time.”

Judee Sedler said she came across Schaffer’s front porch photography on the neighborhood-based social media app Nextdoor and decided to give her a call. “I thought, ‘Why not continue to support the charity and have our photos taken by a professional photographer to capture this time in history?’” Sedler said. “She snapped photos by our front door with masks on. … It was a really positive experience.”

While the intent is to create memorable images, a striking image on television gave Schaffer the idea in the first place.

“When the quarantine first hit, I saw the Feeding San Diego crew at Qualcomm Stadium distributing food, and you could see the miles and miles of cars in line,” she said. “I thought they were going to run out of food, and it was crazy sad. I donated money, but I can’t donate all the time. Then I was surfing online and saw something similar on the East Coast, where people took family photos in exchange for donations to charity.”

With a soft spot for Feeding San Diego, Schaffer decided to launch her own effort. Though she has traveled from Escondido to Chula Vista for the project, she said La Jolla has stepped up in a big way.

“I think participants in our community were donating $100 per session, and everyone I have talked to realized they are in a position to do that,” she said. “It was really uplifting.”

An anonymous donor has agreed to match all contributions made to Feeding San Diego through the endeavor. To date, more than $8,000 has been donated, enough to provide more than 32,000 meals.

To learn more about Schaffer’s front porch portrait project, visit cristinaschafferphotography.com.

To donate to Feeding San Diego via Schaffer’s donation page, go to give.feedingsandiego.org/fundraiser/2728404. ◆