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A moment in history: Portrait photographer captures families sheltering at home during pandemic

John Wilkens, The San Diego Union-Tribune on

Published in Parenting News

SAN DIEGO -- The kids were still in their pajamas. Dad hadn't shaved. Mom looked tired.

Perfect time for a Pandemic Portrait.

The Nichols family milled around their front yard in Carlsbad, Calif., while photographer John Riedy set up a camera and light stand. When he was ready, they assembled on the lawn and Riedy snapped away.

His commercial photography business -- corporate head shots, weddings, real estate portfolios -- has cratered in the coronavirus outbreak, so Riedy is staying busy taking pictures of families that he hopes will say something about this particular moment in time, when everyone's lives are at risk and hunkering down is the new normal.

"I started out calling them 'Pandemic Portraits,' but now I think 'Time Capsule Portraits' might be better," Riedy said. "It's capturing families during this historic event: where they were, what they wore, who they were with."

Family portraits are usually a time for dressing up, for getting your hair done, for going into studios where the lighting is perfect and any flaws can be edited out before the prints are made.


These are not usual times.

"That's what I like about this," Delia Nichols said after Riedy had finished photographing her family Thursday morning. "This is real life. This is how we look every day right now, in jammies and old clothes. A picture like this will help us remember."

Riedy, 50, has done about two dozen of the portraits. He started by reaching out to existing clients and offering them family pictures for free. Word of mouth brought him to others, who pay $50 for the shots -- just enough to cover his expenses, Riedy said.

"I hope I've overblown the significance of this moment and in no time we're back into our old lives," Riedy wrote in a blog post explaining the project. "I hope. But if not, I hope those who opened up to me in this time of crisis will be glad they did someday."


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