Photographer gives quarantined families a reason to smile

Now working from home and with her photography business on hold, Kelsi Wacker had an idea to lighten the mood and bring some joy to families, much like her own, who are going a little stir crazy after weeks of sheltering in place.

These days of staying at home will not be soon forgotten, and for a few families in the city of Blair, Nebraska, they have been forever documented.

Smiling for the camera from the safe distance of their front porches, some families dressed up. Others donned bath robes and pajama pants. Several graduating high school seniors took the opportunity to put on caps and gowns.

Porch portrait

Some families flaunted their stash of toilet paper and disinfectants. Others showcased items that have helped them pass the time during stay-at-home orders – a puppy, a glass of wine – but mostly each other.

Then there were the signs. “I miss live sports,” one dad’s sign read, his daughter sitting in his lap holding a sign that admitted, “I will be back in pajamas in 5 minutes.”  

Now working from home and with her photography business on hold, Kelsi Wacker had an idea to lighten the mood and bring some joy to families, much like her own, who are going a little stir crazy after weeks of sheltering in place.

Porch portrait

Inspired by other photographers documenting life during the COVID-19 pandemic, the wife and mother of four put out a call on social media to see if her neighbors would be interested in having their portraits taken in a series she called “porch sessions.” 

In a matter of hours, Kelsi heard from 15 families eager to be photographed.

“We are in a crazy time right now, and we are living in history right now. I think it’s a time to document that,” Kelsi said. “With a lot of people being at home these days, it’s a great time. Your family is together. They are at home - let’s take a nice family picture.”

The portraits were offered on a donation basis with the money going to St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.

Kelsi was inspired by the Facebook page of a family whose 3-year-old son had been treated at St. Jude before losing his battle with leukemia earlier this year. It was an emotional connection; they never met.

“He just grew on my heart so much,” Kelsi said. “I have never prayed so much in my life as I did for that little boy. I wanted to give back in his memory and for all that St. Jude does.”

With a lens that enables her to keep a safe distance, Kelsi set out to capture what life is like as families stay at home to help stop the spread of COVID-19.

“When I first started out the first couple of families stood there and smiled. Honestly, the longer the day went on the goofier it got,” Kelsi said.

At the end of the day, Kelsi photographed 13 families and was able to send a $405 donation to St. Jude. Two of the families Kelsi photographed sent an additional donation to St. Jude directly.

Seeing the generosity taking place in her own community, such as local restaurants giving meals to kids, inspired Kelsi to find a way she could also make life a little easier during these challenging times.

Kelsi usually works full time as a medical coder and biller at an ophthalmologist’s office and grows her photography business on the weekends. For now, she is working from home and not scheduling portrait sessions.

The “porch sessions” gave Kelsi an opportunity to sharpen her photography and editing skills while also giving back and spreading joy.

“This was my way of being able to give back,” she said. “I hope I can inspire someone to think of their own unique way to give back.”

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