Kid time and porchtraits
by Cynthia Furlong Reynolds
Published in August, 2020
When the Covid quarantine began, countless small businesses began what they hoped would be a short, temporary hiatus. Photographer Jennifer Geer lost or postponed all her appointments and became a full-time stay-at-home mother, supervising school assignments for her three children (ages sixteen, fourteen, and twelve), making puzzles with her kids, and pondering ways to keep her business from imploding.
She came up with the idea of "porchtraits," portraits of families taken from sidewalks in front of their houses, symbolizing their quarantine existence.
At first she worked free, asking friends to bring their families onto their porches to chronicle their new world: husband in shirt and tie "meeting" colleagues on Zoom, wife in a sweatsuit working on her laptop, teenage daughter dressed in PJs phoning friends, son with a basketball in one hand and a game controller in the other, for instance.
The idea caught on, and Geer was back in business--at least in a limited, socially distanced way.
"This is a very scary time--not only for my business, but for worldwide health reasons and for so many people's finances, family life, and employment situation. We're all wondering what the future will hold," Geer says. "But I have to say, I've been very fortunate. I have enjoyed spending extra time with my kids. We've realized all the things we really need and those we can live without."
Ten years ago, she and her now ex-husband moved to Ann Arbor from France with their small children. "At the time, the housing market was crazy. We'd tour a house with our checkbook in hand, but it would already have been sold, often in less than a day." Eventually, they bought a mid-century modern house in Burns Park that reminded them of their home in France: two stories, brick and clapboard, four bedrooms.
"We got lucky. Burns Park is a fantastic neighborhood. Our kids can walk to school and we can walk to stores and shops and restaurants. We fell in love with this very
diverse neighborhood, similar to the Ypsilanti neighborhood where I grew up. We wanted our children to experience different cultures. This area is very family focused. We have block parties and ice cream socials. We care about each other."
Geer is gradually regaining some postponed photography jobs, but she says she's been very cautious about venturing out of her home. "The world feels incredibly weird now. It's changing the way we're thinking." She's been impressed with the way her children adjusted to the strange new world. "A year ago they would be hanging out at the Racquet Club pool with their friends every day." Instead, her boys enjoy online gaming--"It's a good social outlet." One has started lacrosse practices at Pioneer, while the other participates in Zoom basketball clinics--"The coach sets up all kinds of drills; he's really been clever." Her daughter has enjoyed exploring fantasy worlds in books and "Zoom dances" ballet, jazz, and tap daily, while her mother works out virtually after her morning run.
"I'm definitely worried about the finances, and I'm worried that we'll face another shutdown. But Covid has brought some good things: I love having my kids around me more. We've grown even closer. We've had a chance to relax and enjoy our home. We're spending money differently--and less often, except for groceries. We try to support local restaurants, but shopping has taken on a whole new meaning."
[Originally published in August, 2020.]
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