Inspiration struck Hollister resident Donna Silva as she listened to one of her favorite podcasts recently.
Photographer Jasmine Star, a guest on extreme sports photographer Chase Jarvis’ podcast Creative Live, shared a challenge she called “front porch portraits.” She encouraged photographers to locate family and friends and take their portraits from a distance. The challenge aimed to help those behind the lens get out of the house and engage in something creative during the shelter-in-place order, and maybe make a little money along the way.
Silva, a Realtor, is also a self-taught amateur photographer who considers it her passion. She reached out to friends and posted on her personal Facebook page, where she offered free 15- to 20-minute photography sessions for friends and family. She used a zoom lens during the sessions to adhere to social distancing guidelines.
Though the original challenge was meant to be a way for photographers to generate some income during the coronavirus pandemic, Silva said she decided that her sessions would be free. All she asked for in return was for families to share what “home” meant to them.
“I didn’t do it for recognition and I am not the one who came up with this,” Silva said. “I think it is really cool that it gives us the chance, people that are creative, to get out and use their talents in a positive way.”
Silva said the challenge gives her something to look forward to everyday.
“It is allowing me to be creative and to interact with people, which I am missing,” she said. “In real estate you interact with people every day.”
Julie Bonnet, one of Silva’s friends, took her up on the offer. Seeing this as an opportunity to have fun with her family, Bonnet surprised her husband and two sons shortly before Silva came for their session by telling them to put on black shirts and jeans, and to meet her outside in five minutes.
During the session, Bonnet jokingly pulled out a Lysol can hidden on the front porch and acted as if she was going to spray them. Silva captured a candid moment of lightheartedness for the family—even one of the Bonnets’ dogs had a humorous expression. Bonnet cropped the photo to feature her dog and shared it online.
“I belong to a corgi page (on Facebook) and when I put up the post I got 15.5K reactions and over 280 shares,” Bonnet said.
Though the family’s session was quick, and Silva was across the street using a long lens, it documented the Bonnets at a unique time in their lives.
“I feel like we are never going to get this time again,” Bonnet said. “We are blessed to be able to be together and create new ways to enjoy one another’s company, to laugh, to make memories instead of just being stuck.”
Kendra Baron of Hollister has been in the process of selling her home and looking to purchase a new one. It was then that she met Silva, her Realtor.
Baron explained how the response to COVID-19 led to a deeper relationship with Silva.
“We have become friends through all of this. My kids love her. Like, they talk about her almost every day. They ask, ‘Is Donna going to call today?’ They think she is part of the family right now.”
Silva let Baron know what she was doing and offered to take photographs. Baron was quick to say yes.
“My kids were so excited,” she said. “It has been really hard to not have something to look forward to, or get ready for, or get out of the house for.”
Baron found a moment of peace watching her children laugh as Silva snapped photos from a distance.
“We don’t know what tomorrow is going to bring,” she said, “But in that 15 minutes of seeing their smiling faces I knew they knew it was okay. In that moment they were okay.”
As Baron said, “Those photos mean more to me than Donna will ever know.”
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