Coping Through COVID: Portraits of a Pandemic

Please enjoy this snippet of a multi-part series on how our community handled the COVID-19 crisis. We invite you to share your own stories with us in the comments below.

Jill Farrar works on a “porchrait” on Maggie McDermott and Bill Bates

“Porchraits,” as they have become known, are one of the more endearing trends to come out of the coronavirus pandemic. Families of all shapes and sizes pose on their porches for skilled photographers to come by and take their photo—at a safe distance, of course.

“Photographers are doing this around the country,” says Mt. Lebanon Magazine photographer John Altdorfer. “Some are shooting to make a little money to help them through some hard times … Some are taking photos to relieve the monotony.”

Altdorfer and his partner, Jill Farrar, are the latter. Normally during this time of year, they would be busy shooting weddings and fundraisers, so they were looking for a reason to come together as a team again, in spite of COVID-19 cancellations. They chose to do porchraits, both to ease their boredom and to raise money for the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank.

“One of the best parts of all this is seeing everyone’s reaction. People are having a good time,” says Altdorfer. “Our favorite was Bruce Reisner. He lives on the North Side. His photos look like a scene from the post-apocalypse. We also photographed former Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre Theater ballerina Julia Erickson and her husband, Aaron Ingley, dancing in the street in front of their Oakland home. And the last person on the schedule is a guy who owns goats!”

They have primarily gotten the word out about this project on Facebook, and from there they try to organize the shoots by neighborhood. So far, the pair have photographed more than 30 people, resulting in $5,500 for the food bank.

“Honestly, we figured we’d be lucky to raise $500 to $750,” says Altdorfer. “But Pittsburghers—and Mt. Lebanese, is that what they call you guys?—always respond with a generosity that flow deeper than the three rivers. We hope that when people see the photos that they’ll donate some more!”

Check out the other stories in this series, plus more on COVID-19 from our bloggers, past issues and Mt. Lebanon municipal departments.

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