In between helping kids with online homework and teaching their own virtual classes at the Ed School, a half dozen faculty members posed for "porch-raits" outside the place they've called their office since March: their homes.
It was a few weeks after this pandemic took hold. Jason Grow, a photographer whose work has appeared in Ed. several times over the past few years, was feeling restless. Spring assignments had been canceled. The chance of getting new jobs, at least for the short term, was pretty slim. He was, as he says, “stuck in covid limbo.” But he had a plan. He knew that many families in the Cape Ann community on the north shore of Massachusetts where he lives were out of work and needed help. He also knew that many people were also feeling restless after being cooped up inside. So Grow, along with three other local photographers, started a family “porch-rait” project to benefit a local food pantry. Families gathered on their porches and stoops, in adirondack chairs and front yards, while the photographers stood a safe distance away on sidewalks and walkways, cameras in hand. Initially they thought they might get 50 or so families, but by the time they finished, they had photographed 250 families and organizations and raised about $30,000.
As we were thinking about this issue of Ed., we knew it would be fun to do something similar — a series of porch-raits showing faculty members at home with their families. We gave Grow a list of six faculty members. We wanted a mix of people and family types, and ended up with one faculty member who has been affiliated with the Ed School for more than four decades (Pamela Mason), two who joined the community in the last few years (Junlei Li and Peter Blair), and another who has been here for about a dozen (Mandy Savitz-Romer). We also got a two-for-one porch-rait with one of our faculty couples (Heather Hill and Jon Star).
Incredibly, Grow shot all of the photos in one day in early September, just as the virtual fall semester was kicking off at Harvard, racing from two locations in Boston to two in Arlington, then back again to Boston. One of the upsides of having most K–12 schools also virtual (or partly virtual) is that the younger children of faculty members were able to take part in the photo shoots. (Pamela Mason’s adult children had, unfortunately, just left Boston.) We ended up with a great snapshot of another side of our faculty we rarely see, wearing jeans and shorts and standing in driveways with kids nearby.
This, of course, spurred another idea: Have alumni submit their own porch-raits. Nearly 100 did.