‘This Is Us’

  • Photographs from Kate Hunter's front porch photography series. Contributed photo/Kate Hunter—2016

  • Photographs from Kate Hunter's front porch photography series. Contributed photos/Kate Hunter

  • Photographs from Kate Hunter's front porch photography series. Contributed photos/Kate Hunter

  • Photographs from Kate Hunter's front porch photography series. Contributed photo/Kate Hunter—2016

  • Photographs from Kate Hunter's front porch photography series. Contributed photo/Kate Hunter—2016

  • Photographs from Kate Hunter's front porch photography series. Contributed photo/Kate Hunter—2016

  • Photographs from Kate Hunter's front porch photography series. Contributed photo/Kate Hunter—2016

  • Photographs from Kate Hunter's front porch photography series. Contributed photo/Kate Hunter—2016

  • Photographs from Kate Hunter's front porch photography series. Contributed photo/Kate Hunter—2016

  • Photographs from Kate Hunter's front porch photography series. Contributed photo/Kate Hunter—2016

  • Photographs from Kate Hunter's front porch photography series. Contributed photo/Kate Hunter—2016

  • Photographs from Kate Hunter's front porch photography series. Contributed photo/Kate Hunter—2016

  • Photographs from Kate Hunter's front porch photography series. Contributed photo/Kate Hunter—2016

  • Photographs from Kate Hunter's front porch photography series. Contributed photo/Kate Hunter—2016

  • Photographs from Kate Hunter's front porch photography series. Contributed photo/Kate Hunter—2016

  • Photographs from Kate Hunter's front porch photography series. Contributed photo/Kate Hunter—2016

  • Photographs from Kate Hunter's front porch photography series. Contributed photo/Kate Hunter—2016

  • Photographs from Kate Hunter's front porch photography series. Contributed photo/Kate Hunter—2016

  • Kate Gariepy Hunter has been keeping her distance while photographing families on their front porches during the COVID-19 crisis. Staff Photo/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer
Published: 4/23/2020 9:28:32 AM
Modified: 4/23/2020 9:28:22 AM

A few of the subjects held themselves precisely so, smiling directly at the camera; some were relaxed, casually lounging against the front steps while playing an instrument. Others posed formally with their loved ones, dressed in their Sunday best as if they were standing for a family portrait.

The images are more than snapshots — they’re windows into the diverse ways Greenfield residents are confronting the coronavirus pandemic. And while there are many variables within each frame, there is one constant: the photographer, Kate Hunter, a Greenfield artist who made the 30 or so images over three consecutive days last month, before the state’s social distancing guidelines were in full effect.

“Some people would bring a vase of flowers out, set the stage, dress in a certain way or bring furniture out on their porch — everyone was different,” Hunter said of the project.

Hunter, of Greenfield, is a local portrait photographer who sold her portion of Greenfield Gallery a year ago in March. She started the Main Street business in 2015 with another local artist, Rachael Katz. These days, Hunter, who studied visual arts at Greenfield Community College, works in sales and marketing at Real Pickles and runs her own photography business on the side — an artistic passion that gave rise to the front porch photo project.

“I have to say that I saw the idea (elsewhere),” Hunter said. “It was just a little bit of an idea and I put a post just to my friends on Facebook. The response was huge.”

The following day, Hunter photographed 22 families from afar, making the portraits with zoom lenses.

“It was like medicine to me. I was keeping a very good distance, way further away than six feet. I was getting to communicate and see faces of people I knew in the community — they were excited, and it felt good to get out there. Same with the second day,” Hunter said. “I was doing it when this was all really new, at the end of March.”

On the third day, Hunter decided to put the series on hold — although she notes: “The project is not done. There’s a pause in taking portraits of people right now while we’re in this really strange period of time.”

Among those she photographed, Hunter says she made images of a friend and her daughter who is a college senior and won’t be walking across the stage in person this year. Another family wrote “what matters” in chalk on the walkway in front of them. She also photographed “a family that performed with a cello and a violin. They were having a blast, using it as a portrait moment, for sure, but also as a ‘we’re OK, we’re getting through this,’” Hunter said.

In a way, the images documented a throwback experience in the modern era. Under isolation orders, “People have time to go for a walk or sit on their porch. Everything has slowed down,” Hunter said. “It is archaic. People don’t sit on their front porch and just sit there and watch, spend time and be present.”

‘This Is Us’

Aside from an art project, Hunter says she conceptualized the endeavor as a way to build community — a continuation of a prior project that she undertook last year. In the summer of 2019, two portraits of Joe Dulude II, a local artist, were vandalized. Dulude was dressed in drag.

In response, Hunter and others in Greenfield’s art community created a photography project visualizing the community’s support of Dulude. Hunter, along with a few other local photographers, made portraits of dozens of Greenfield residents and displayed them on the side of the former First National Bank on Bank Row, where Dulude’s portraits were hanging.

“Whatever their reasons for destroying these photographs of a talented member of our community dressed in drag, we (took) that as ‘you’re not welcome here,’” Hunter said. “There were all sorts of people coming out to support Joe Dulude, in that moment, saying, ‘we support you, this is who we are, this is Greenfield, we’ve got you.’”

According to Hunter, she identified a similar prevailing sentiment when news of the ongoing pandemic broke, inspiring the “This Is Us” Greenfield front porch photo series.

Looking to the future, Hunter say she’s not entirely sure what the next evolution will be, although she has a few ideas that she’s not ready to share. Meanwhile, she recently received an Eggtooth Productions mini-grant, which is intended to support the local arts. While she’s staying indoors all the time now, Hunter says she’s not lacking for inspiration and her photographer’s eye is as sharp as ever.

“Some people are walking close together like nothing has changed,” Hunter said. “Most people, you can see in their body language, that this is weird — they’re affected.”

Those subtle nuances in posture can be seen in her front porch photographs, which will forever serve as local documentation of this unnerving time that Greenfield finds itself in.

Andy Castillo can be reached at acastillo@recorder.com.

How to connect

Hunter’s photography, including the “This Is Us” front porch photo series, which was limited to Greenfield residents, can be viewed at katehunter.shootproof.com.


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