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June 1, 2020
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Erin Hansted, an accounting manager at the VNA Community Healthcare & Hospice in Guilford and an avid photographer who joined the Killingworth Front Porch Project, has her own family front porch portrait—taken by a friend—that shows her with husband, Kevin, and their children, Emmalena, Vayda, and Carter. Photo courtesy of Erin Hansted

Erin Hansted, an accounting manager at the VNA Community Healthcare & Hospice in Guilford and an avid photographer who joined the Killingworth Front Porch Project, has her own family front porch portrait—taken by a friend—that shows her with husband, Kevin, and their children, Emmalena, Vayda, and Carter. (Photo courtesy of Erin Hansted )

Erin Hansted Captures Family Front Porch Portraits

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The photographs Erin Hansted takes of families smiling on their front porches are a window into the lives of Connecticut residents as they observe the stay-at-home order and social distancing policy meant to contain the spread of the COVID-19 outbreak.

Parents gather their children and share a light-hearted moment just outside their front door and smile for the camera for a photograph—a document of sorts for the family to keep as a memento and a testament to how the deadly coronavirus has not conquered their human spirit.

Sure enough, some families jump off their front porch steps in laughter to be photographed in midair. One family appears in costume as if Halloween had been moved from fall to late spring. A few others dress in monochromatic hues to create a cohesive color theme on the family portrait. Still others bring out props—from wine glasses and laptops to handwritten witticisms and heart-shaped messages for health care and essential workers.

“Many have asked, ‘So, what is everyone doing for their photos?’ I just tell them to have fun with it and whatever they’d like, whether it’s a simple family portrait or a comical scene,” Erin says.

It’s perhaps the best gift Erin could give families who are forced to stay indoors for weeks. By taking their portraits, she gives families a welcome respite to be outdoors with loved ones and to converse with someone outside of their homes.

Behind the camera and safe at a distance, Erin too finds pleasure doing the Front Porch Project in Killingworth and Higganum.

“I really enjoy seeing all of the family pets involved in the photos,” she says.

The Front Porch Project is not limited to the local scene. A natural development when photographers yearn to capture an unprecedented time in images and families yearn to catch the scenery outside the front door, the project became a welcome phenomenon that spread almost as quickly as the coronavirus did.

Sometimes called Porch Portraits or some other similar name, the movement spread across the United States, from Massachusetts to California, and was covered by national media. One witty photographer in Michigan even coined a new word: Porchtraits.

Erin explains that the Killingworth Front Porch Project has its beginnings with a request on social media.

“A friend in town, Elysia Piscitelli, posted on the Killingworth Stomping Ground page on Facebook, asking if anyone in town was interested in getting involved with the Front Porch Project. I thought it would be a great way to give back to our own community. It has also been a wonderful distraction from everything going on,” Erin recalls.

Although she doesn’t charge a fee for her time, she does request that families make a donation to the Haddam-Killingworth Backpack Program. So far, more than $1,500 in monetary donations have been raised, as well as plenty of nonperishable food items.

“Currently these donations are serving between 12 to 15 families in need,” Erin says.

The project was announced on the Killingworth Front Porch Project page set up on Facebook, where families can request for the portraits. The information is also shared on the Killingworth Stomping Ground page. Families are encouraged to reach out via the Facebook pages to schedule the photo sessions around Killingworth and Higganum or to contact Erin directly at erin274@yahoo.com.

As of May 15, Erin had photographed 35 families and more sessions are scheduled in the coming weeks. She typically spends about 15 minutes or more with each family, depending on how many different poses family members are willing to do.

A resident of Killingworth, she too has her own family front porch portrait—taken by a friend—that shows her with husband, Kevin, and their children, Emmalena, 14; Vayda, 10; and Carter, 8.

More About Figures

While photography brings out Erin’s creative side, her educational and professional background has been less about pictures and more about figures.

After discovering an interest in accounting in high school, she pursued the field and completed her B.S. in accounting from Quinnipiac University.

She has been working as an accounting manager at the VNA Community Healthcare & Hospice in Guilford since 2004.

Although her work at the VNA doesn’t involve being on the health care frontline, she does witness the work and worry of health care professionals as they strive to protect and care for their patients.

“We have a wonderful group of nurses, therapists, and other direct-care employees who have been working very hard through these stressful times. Although I do not work closely with any of our clinicians, I know they have all been very stressed but have been working through this to keep our patients home and safe,” she says.

Indeed, the VNA has been committed to ensuring the safety of the members of the communities it serves even as VNA nurses and health care professionals remain in the field, caring for the chronically ill and those recovering from diseases. The VNA also encourages the elderly who are most susceptible to the virus to stay home and urges family members to be vigilant and practice social distancing.

Like many nonmedical employees, Erin knew she wanted to help the community, too, using her own skills and talents. She admits she always had a passion for photography and the Front Porch Project gives her that opportunity to make a difference during the outbreak.

“I’ve always enjoyed photography and after my third child was born, I was a part-time, stay-at-home mom. I decided to pursue photography on the side during the five years that I was home with my kids,” she says.

“Although I don’t currently offer sessions any longer, I do on occasion get involved with projects involving photography, such as the Front Porch Project,” she adds.

The sense of joy and outpouring of gratitude from families are evident in the favorable comments and posts on the project’s Facebook page. By all accounts, the Front Porch Project has been a success in raising funds for a good cause and helping keep families and communities steadfast against a faceless adversary.

“I’ve met some wonderful families,” Erin says. “It’s absolutely amazing to see how our community has come together through all of this.”

To nominate a Person of the Week, email m.caulfield@shorepublishing.com.


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