What began as a way to document this unique historical moment for her own family turned into a community-driven mission for San Rafael mom-and-photographer Cristen Wright.
With her trusty Canon camera in hand, Wright has now set about capturing images of area families sheltering at home—not just for posterity but for the sense of community it engenders. Local media—including producers for local television station KGO, which recently profiled Wright—has noticed. Below is our Q&A with the lauded photographer.
Bohemian: From what I understand, this project began as a way to document your own family’s experience through this historic time. What inspired you to venture out to capture images of other families?
Cristen Wright: Yes, I am always taking photos of my family and when the shelter-in-place started and remote learning for school began I wanted to make sure to document this time for our family. For the first time ever, our calendars have been cleared and we have been given this time to be with our family. I wanted to photograph our journey as a family. A good family friend and neighbor told me about a photographer in his hometown offering “porch sessions”—photographing families on their front porches during the COVID pandemic. I thought it was a great idea and a great way for me to give back to the neighborhood and community I love so much. So many families are at home together, right? I wanted to document that.
B: How does a “no contact” photoshoot work? What’s your creative process?
CW: Friends and neighbors reach out to me via text and sometimes email. I set up a time to come by their home to do a quick photoshoot of their family from the sidewalk in front of their home and then I am on my way. I send them a text to let them know I am out front and we start when they come out. It only takes a few minutes, all done from a safe distance (I use my telephoto lens), and then … I move on to the next house. All of the families I have photographed are friends or friends-of-friends in our neighborhood.
B: In the KGO profile (congrats!) it says you captured images of 13 families in a single Saturday—on a bike! How do you find the drive to achieve so much, given what’s happening in the world?
CW: My husband is a physician and we have numerous friends and family who are physicians around the state and country. I hear what is going on and what our healthcare professionals are facing. I really wanted to give back to our community in some way and to bring some light and joy during a time that for all of us is challenging. Photography is something that I love so I wanted to share it with our neighbors.
B: How have the families you photograph responded to the process and the resultant images?
CW: Families have been so appreciative! I have had so many families share with me the joy that this has brought them. I will share some of the feedback I have gotten from families …
“Cristen, Thank you for doing what you are doing. I know for a fact it is a light during these times for everyone you photograph.”–Sandee
“Sitting here crying. These are so special. You have no idea how amazing you are. Love you so much.”
“You are the MVP of SIP. Thank you for sharing your amazing talent and joy!!!”
B: I know you’re not charging for these photos (so cool!). Is this work rewarding and is it therapeutic for you as an artist?
CW: Correct, no charge! It is incredibly rewarding to do something for others! I really love capturing the connection between families through photos. It has been really neat to photograph families in front of their homes. Every home is different and each home so special.