LA GRANDE — Local photographer Melissa Gomes set herself a challenge Monday — capture images of local families staying home to curb the spread of the coronavirus outbreak.
She owns and operates a photography business in La Grande and works in and out of the studio. But she and her family have been isolating themselves to their home in the Grande Ronde Valley as much as possible, she said, to do their part in the COVID-19 crisis.
Gomes said a friend sent her a link to a story about a photographer in another state taking portraits of families as they sheltered at home. Then Oregon Gov. Kate Brown on Monday issued the stay-home order that went into effect statewide Tuesday at 12:01 a.m.
As much as the notion intrigued her to snap locals following social distancing practices, she needed to give it some thought.
“I was quarantining my family,” Gomes said. “I had to figure out a safe way to do it.”
Gomes said she realized she could do something akin to what that other photographer did and maybe help the Kai family of Elgin. Cody and April Kai and their young daughters lost their home early Monday in a fire.
Monday, at 12:45 p.m., Gomes posted a message to her business Facebook page letting folks know she would take their photos for free, in sessions lasting no more than five minutes, but would ask for donations to help the Kai family. She said she arrived in La Grande at 1:15 p.m. and the project was on.
“They just messaged me their address and they stayed on their porch, and I shot on the sidewalk,” she said.
She and the families, she said, kept at least 6 feet apart. In the span of 4 hours or so, she photographed 11 families.
“I bounced around all over La Grande,” she said.
She dubbed the project, “Porch Sessions: Stronger Together.” Tuesday, she posted another message to her business Facebook page, thanking those who participated and who donated to the Kai family. The post included this:
“In this time of uncertainty, let us bind ourselves together. Let us lift each other up. Let us meet the needs of those around us. Let us show the spirit and heart of Eastern Oregon. We are a small community that loves BIG! So let’s seek out ways to love big.”
She also said she shut down her photography business in La Grande.
“I’m done until the governor says it’s OK to proceed,” she said.
You can find more of the photos from the “Porch Sessions” on the Melissa Gomes Photography Facebook page.