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July 3, 2020
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1

Since April 6, Jessica Ingarra, 22, has photographed unique portraits of more than 70 different North Branford and Northford families during the COVID-19 quarantine, as a local photographer volunteering to participate in The Front Porch Project. To date, her efforts have raised $1,715 for The Food Pantry of North Branford. Photo by Adriana Ingarra

Since April 6, Jessica Ingarra, 22, has photographed unique portraits of more than 70 different North Branford and Northford families during the COVID-19 quarantine, as a local photographer volunteering to participate in The Front Porch Project. To date, her efforts have raised $1,715 for The Food Pantry of North Branford. (Photo by Adriana Ingarra )

2

Ingarra’s Eye Captures ‘Front Porch Project’ for North Branford

Published June 03, 2020 • Last Updated 04:07 p.m., June 03, 2020

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A community project idea born March 17 as #TheFrontStepsProject quickly spread from its Needham, Massachusetts origins and became The Front Porch Project, inspiring local photographers around the country, including Jessica Ingarra of North Branford.

The idea? Photographers offer their talent to create portraits of locals, safe at home during the pandemic, with any monetary donations given to local charitable organizations.

Since April 6, Jessica, 22, has photographed unique portraits of more than 70 different North Branford and Northford families quarantined under the state’s Stay Safe, Stay Home executive order. To date, she’s raised $1,715 for The Food Pantry of North Branford.

The new graduate of University of Hartford’s (UHART) Hartford Art School (BFA in photography, with minors in art history and business administration) says she was inspired to capture her community members during this monumental moment in time, even though it added to a workload which included finishing her thesis and other studies during this past semester’s remote learning due to COVID-19. Jessica is also a North Branford High School alumnae (Class of 2016) where she was a member of the lacrosse team.

To gear up for this photo project in her community, Jessica used social media to reach out to prospective subjects. Jessica says she actually learned about the idea for the project from a post on a North Branford community Facebook page, on which a resident asked if any local photographer was offering the project to town.

“I saw the post and I asked my sister, Adriana, ‘Should I do this?’” says Jessica. “She said, ‘Yes, definitely.’”

Her sister, who is also attending UHART, offered to help Jessica out.

“We were also in school, so we knew we would have to work it around our Zoom calls with our professors, as well as schedule around each family’s availability,” says Jessica.

She credits Adriana with engineering a project spread sheet to map out appointment scheduling and also with helping her get to the locations.

Jessica launched her offer to the North Branford community on Facebook, writing, “The Front Porch Project is something that local photographers came up with, to go house to house of whoever wants to participate and take pictures of families while maintaining social distance! I think this would be a fun and interesting way to capture these times and show off our awesome community. All donations raised [will go] towards the Food Pantry of North Branford.”

In short order, requests started coming in. The sisters tried to line up as many as possible to fit the growing daily schedule on the project spreadsheet.

“We’d have at least six families, up to 11 to 12 families, a day. We actually had to narrow it down sometimes to 10 families a day, because there were so many people,” says Jessica. “And many families had other contacts, so we had a couple people from East Haven who wanted to do it and a family from North Haven as well. So that was really awesome, and they donated to our food pantry, which I thought was really nice.”

Jessica also agreed to go to Cheshire to take a family’s portrait as part of the project. In fact, traveling to the family homes often took more time than her photography sessions, during which she’d wear a facial mask and stand a least six feet away.

“I wouldn’t spend more than 5 to 20 minutes, depending,” says Jessica. “There were a few families that wanted multiple photos, and some people picked a specific day, like a birthday. One girl wanted pictures with her brothers and pictures with only her mom, so those took more time. Some families wanted a few plain and simple photos that took five minutes.”

Part of the arrangement was that every family was prepared when she arrived.

“Some families would just meet us outside and they would stand at their front porch, or if they had a specific location they wanted in their yard, they would just stand in front of it,” says Jessica. “Some people really got dressed up and they wanted a formal photo. Some people wanted to be in their quarantine mode—full masks and sunglasses and a sign like ‘COVID-19’ with the date—which I thought was really cool because this is a moment in history.”

She also made portraits of some families doing “their quarantine thing,” she says.

“There were some who were on their quads and dirt bikes to show how they do their own thing,” she says. “I thought it was pretty fun how everyone had their own quarantine time.”

The families received their photos from Jessica by email, while their donations of any amount were collected for the Food Pantry of North Branford.

Jessica has also received permission from some of the families share their photos.

“I kept it very private for the families, because it’s the family’s photos first, and I gave them a release form to sign to give to me if they wanted me to put them on my website to share with everybody,” she says.

She will be posting those photos in the coming weeks at www.jessicalaurenphotographs.com.

Some permitted photos were also included in her final UHART project this semester. In turn, sharing those photos has now inspired several other UHART student photographers.

“I got a really good response from my peers and my professors, and now I’m getting text messages from my classmates thinking about doing this and asking what I did. So I think they’re doing it in their towns,” she says.

Jessica wants to thank all those community members who contacted her, as well as those who couldn’t participate.

“I was really thankful for everyone that signed up. Some people who signed up couldn’t make it because they were essential workers, but they said they sent their donations to the Food Pantry, so I thought that was really cool,” she says.

While she wasn’t expecting to undertake a project like this at this point in her life, Jessica says she appreciates the opportunity it has given her as an artist, community member, and aspiring professional.

“Mostly at the art school they teach us gallery work, more conceptual work,” says Jessica, who hopes to someday establish her own photography business.

“This was getting to take pictures of people outside of a studio, and getting to really connect more with my town again, four years later. And it was getting to meet all these people in my town I otherwise wouldn’t have met. It kind of felt nice,” she says, adding, “I was more with my community, talking with them and being around other people. In quarantine, you can’t really do that. I found a way to do that, with distance. It was nice to take a step back from school, have some outreach with my community, and raise this money for the food pantry.”


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