Porch-traits: Networking During a Pandemic

Now THIS is creative business.

My partner quit his 9–5 job as a Project Manager in the summer of last year to pursue his dream of being an independent creative. He has been working tirelessly to become an established photographer in Toronto… Who knew less than a year after going solo, Covid-19 would come marching through with great strength. Unfortunately, this pandemic has put a big fat wrench into projects and plans he and his network had for this year. He had hoped to attend the Olympics as a media rep for a magazine, he hoped to expand a podcast with some of his artist friends, and he hoped to build financial stability through achieving more consistent gigs. It is scary to think about the future for a newer entrepreneur like him, especially when his main areas of focus for photography are concerts, sports, and special events.

From a financial perspective, Trudeau (we are Canadian) is offering benefit plans to residents, and thankfully most entrepreneurs are eligible for at least one of these plans. We have been collecting CERB for the time being. However, the biggest frustration my partner is experiencing is the inability to express creativity and take on opportunities as normal. The thing that is causing him the most pain is his brain not being stimulated by adventure.

In mid-March, my partner attended a Zoom event with members of the Canon Creator Class (an incredible program ran by Canon). During the meeting, one of his good friends mentioned he was getting involved in a movement that he found to be powerful and motivating. The movement was called “porch-traits”. The idea was that photographers could reach out to their neighbours, either through email lists or through paper ads, and offer to take pictures of families on their front porch or lawn, from a safe distance. Porch-traits were taken for free and the purpose was to simply raise the spirits of community members. However, if a participating family wanted prints of their images, they could donate to a charity of the photographer’s choosing, and then the artist would send the product to them (again in a safe manner).

This idea sparked an interest for my partner; the opportunity was exactly what he was looking for as it would get him out of the house and connecting with people in some way. He started his porch-trait journey immediately and utilized his friend’s advice to most effectively continue the project.

First, he created a flyer stating the premiss of the project, including a couple of images he had taken, and at the bottom, he linked a digital form that participants could fill out to get started.

Second, he took an hour trek around our neighbourhood with gloves and a mask on, placing his flyer in mailboxes.

Then, he waited…

To his surprise, he received his first email request on the same day as the flyer’s distribution. He was delighted and booked the shoot two days in advance. Requests continued to trickle in at a slow but consistent pace; he finally had something to focus on. Even just a few days into joining the movement, his mood improved drastically, he got out of bed with purpose, and it was an additional talking point for us in our 750sqf apartment.

After a couple of shoots, my partner started receiving personal referrals, this is where the project blew up. Every family he would take a porch-trait of would get another family involved as soon as they saw how cool the images were. Hilariously, he would shoot whole families across five or six households. Families would talk to other families, neighbours would talk to neighbours, and now my partner has done 16 shoots and counting.

Besides lifting spirits and creating content, another benefit to this movement is that it’s a great way to network. Every person he has interacted with is in a different line of work and has different needs. He has exchanged business cards and personal information with quite a few people, as after this experience they intend to hire him for future endeavours.

The porch-trait movement is a great example of how starting something small with good intentions can lead to something much greater. Even though it can be tiresome for entrepreneurs to put their time and skills towards projects that aren’t making immediate profit, there is always a silver lining and a bigger picture. If you are a photographer who is bored or struggling to find ways to be creative during this time, I highly recommend joining this movement, as I have seen how powerful the impact is on artists and communities.

Toronto-based Professional Communication grad. Animal enthusiast & mental health advocate. Founder and Chief Editor of Creatures.

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