Last summer, I noticed that my friend and fellow concert photographer, Tina Hagerling aka @goldi_rocks, was doing this lovely series of Pandemic Portraits. Of course, I asked begged to be included and she kindly accommodated me. We took the photo in my backyard, on my back patio, near the fire pit that I had lounged near for extended periods of time listening to 70s music, which had comforted me. I was wearing my Styx concert shirt, a band I photographed who blew me away – and we reminisced when we used to see each other in the pit.
Here we are almost a year later, and she is still doing these portraits – but at least there is a light at the end of the tunnel. I, personally, get my second vaccine shot this month and can’t wait to slowly pick up on the life I had in the before times. Having said that, there was a lot I learned about myself in the last year, and I am glad people like Tina took the time to document it.
Interview with Tina Hagerling about her Pandemic Portrait Project
What made you start this project?
I had to do something. In a matter of weeks nearly all my activities and a good chunk of my freelance work came to a screeching halt. I suddenly had lots of time on my hands; which didn’t pair well with the feeling of general uncertainty about the world. Grabbing my camera and getting creative was my way of staying sane.
I also felt like there was an opportunity to document a significant moment in time. I was starting to see a few photographers doing these family portraits, or “porch-traits”, around town. The images had a hopeful and resilient vibe. I wanted to keep that going using my style, while also paying close attention to the space and people’s personalities.
What challenges have you encountered while doing it?
Trying to achieve consistent lighting and sketchy weather were the main issues I had to contend with. I would always try to shoot at the same time (relative to sunset) to avoid things like harsh shadows. But depending upon which direction a home faced, it could mean sitting around for a while. A shout-out to all my subjects who patiently waited, sometimes in the cold and wind, for a few minutes of optimal light.
It seems like you were trying to bring out something special in each one, can you talk about that?
That was very intentional. I went into every shoot telling people that I’d like to convey something about their personalities, interests or ways they might be coping with things like quarantine. Sometimes I’d pitch an idea of what that could be, but I mostly left it open-ended. It was a joy to see all the different directions that took.
How did you find people to participate?
I started with several friends and it grew through referrals. I had no idea how receptive people would be to doing portraits during a pandemic, but many of my subjects embraced it. The thing I heard time and again was that having something to do or a reason to dress up or even just an excuse to take a few steps outside the front door was very welcome.
Do you have any funny stories about trying to get the photographs?
I quickly learned that I had a limited window of time before I’d wear out my welcome with young kids. As in maybe 10-15 minutes. All the kids who participated were absolutely great. But going back through my photos, I noticed quite a few “why is this lady still standing on our lawn?” looks.
How many have you done total?
Close to 45.
Do you think you will do another portrait project like this in the future?
I love photographing people and will no doubt do more portrait series, but I don’t foresee doing anything quite like this again.
Thing you most look forward to in the after-times?
Whew, that’s tough. I’ve missed concerts something terrible. But just being able able to hang out with people anywhere sounds pretty great. There are so many things I hope to never take for granted again.
Same, Tina. Same. ❤️