'Porchraits:' Calgary photographer capturing family moments during COVID-19

CALGARY — A Calgary freelance photographer has been keeping busy shooting "porchraits" of families around the city since the COVID-19 pandemic sapped his usual source of income.

Neil Zeller says the sessions are in high demand and he's on track to complete 200 in little over a week.

He says clients wear whatever they want, whether it's pyjamas or formal wear, and he takes photos outside their homes with a long lens to maintain enough physical distancing.

Zeller says he was inspired by isolation portraits taken by Yellowknife photographer Pat Kane, and he's since heard of several other shooters offering similar sessions during the pandemic.

Zeller makes his living shooting live events and leading photo tours, all of which have been cancelled for the next six months because of COVID-19.

He's not charging anything for his latest portraits, but clients can donate whatever they can.

The funds are to help support him and his family and he's promising to spend money locally.

The porch sessions have been a source of joy for him and his clients, Zeller says.

"I get to meet people at their best in these moments," he says. "The folks that are signing up to get these porch portraits done are looking forward to it all day."

Another highlight of the job is meeting people's pets, including a fish, a snake and a hamster.

It's tough not being able to pet the animals, he says.

"If I had COVID on me, I could transfer it to them and they could take it into their house.

"The hardest thing is watching these dogs look at me like, 'Why aren't you petting me?'"

Zeller says his goal is to do 500 or even 1,000 sessions.

"As long as people want them done, I'm going to keep doing these."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 27, 2020

Lauren Krugel, The Canadian Press