Five or 10 years from now, what will we remember about these last few weeks? The eagerly anticipated events that were canceled, our favorite business that was closed, the casual handshakes and hugs that were taboo? What will we remember about the time we spent with the people closest to us, and the ways we found joy?
Local photographer Emily Klarer is undertaking a project to document daily life in Moab in the time of COVID-19. For 10-to-15-minute sessions, she is dropping by people’s homes and snapping casual portraits of them on their front porches, in their yards or in their driveways. Payment can be made through Venmo or Paypal and Klarer sends finished photos over email.
“I cannot take credit by any means,” Klarer said of the concept.
She saw other photographers posting about similar projects online.
“The online photographer community is really supportive and open in sharing information and ideas,” she said. “So I saw that, and just thought it would be a great way to interact with people without really ‘interacting’ with people, and give them a little memento of this crazy time.”
Last Thursday evening, Klarer kept her portrait appointment with the Oldham family in the last of the evening light in a breeze that was beginning to cool after a warm afternoon. Jess and Nick Oldham and their son Cedar posed on their porch with their husky (the cat declined to be photographed). After some quick composed shots, Klarer took candid shots of Jess and Nick talking, and of Cedar riding his bike and playing.
Jess Oldham said she normally doesn’t like to be photographed, but Klarer makes it feel casual and relaxed.
“She’s really good at not making you feel like you’re not having a photoshoot,” Jess Oldham said. “You just feel like you’re hanging out with your friend. You feel comfortable.”
“Emily captures candid moments better than anybody else,” Nick Oldham added, as Klarer aimed the lens at Cedar jumping from a stump.
Klarer had already taken portraits for nine other households that day. She said everyone brought a different tone to their photoshoot. One household dressed up in elaborate sequined costumes. Some families with young children used the photoshoot to continue “dress-up” games they’d been playing during the long day at home. Some people wore their face masks, a nod to the moment and the reason people are sticking close to home.
Klarer said she’s loved the project so far.
“My cheeks hurt from smiling at seeing people and their kids and their dogs and their yards. It’s been really cool.”
Klarer was happy to be chatting with friends and acquaintances, from a safe distance, and to be shooting photos again—usually, she photographs weddings and all her appointments for the spring have been rescheduled. But she also recognizes that she is making a kind of record of the moment.
“I didn’t think about it that way at first,” she said, “but now that I’ve been going around, it does seem like you’re going to want to take something positive away from this experience. A photo of you with your family or you with your pet, or just you at your home during this time, I think is really valuable. I know it’s not a positive time for most of us, but it’s important to document.”
Klarer envisions making some kind of collage out of these porch portraits (with the permission of the subjects.) She said she’ll continue making appointments as long as there is interest.
“It would be cool to get the whole town, it would be cool to get people I don’t know,” she said.
“I mean, I’m around,” she added ruefully.