Smile! Or Don’t. These Photographs Capture Life Under Coronavirus In Colorado

April 10, 2020
Lafayette photographer captures people on their porches during the coronavirusLafayette photographer captures people on their porches during the coronavirusKate Fisher / Timestamp Studios
Lafayette resident Esmeralda Rivera and her family participated in Kate Fisher’s photography project so they could be part of the town’s history. Rivera wrote this message to the community: “We are in difficult times. I believe in being strong when everything seems to be going wrong… I believe that tomorrow is another day and I believe in MIRACLES.” With Rivera are (left to right): daughter Lupita, niece Carmen, nephew Alec, daughter Marisol and the family dog, Shayla.

There’s a name for what Kate Fisher of Lafayette has been doing lately. Porch portraits are happening in cities around the country, including in Fisher’s hometown in Boulder County. 

Each day she leaves her own house to take pictures of other people staying home. 

The idea came to her because she wanted to turn a negative order — “don’t go out” — into a positive.

“There was a sense of urgency for me to figure out a way to turn that no into a yes in a very safe and creative way,” Fisher said.

She had time to pursue the project because her normal business photographing weddings and family celebrations has dried up.

Since March 13, she’s made more than 200 portraits of Lafayette residents. For each person she captures, she asks them to write a message to the community, then posts their photographs and thoughts on her website, on Facebook and on Lafayette Rocks social media sites.  

“I'm here to timestamp Lafayette,” Fisher said. “We're all having to be really brave right now.”

Lafayette photographer with a subject outsider her house during coronavirusSonya Doctorian for CPR News
Traci Bohy and her dog, Leo, take suggestions from Kate Fisher on where to pose for their portrait.

New requests to participate pour in every day to Fisher’s TimeStampStudios website. It’s easy to make appointments, because everyone’s home.

Traci Bohy loved the idea as soon as she read about it on the NextDoor app.

“It was some positivity during what seemed like was neverending negative news. I was just really inspired by it. So, I wanted to be a part of that,” Bohy said.

Bohy lives in Lafayette’s Old Town neighborhood. She recently moved here from Texas.

“People really like to get to know each other around here,” Bohy said. “They’re coming out and introducing themselves. I’ve never lived in a neighborhood where I felt like I wanted to belong, let alone already belonged.”

Bohy asked Fisher how she and her dog, Leo, should pose for their portrait.

“You and Leo can maybe sit on your nice steps there,” Fisher said, “if you want to hold Leo.”

Fisher raised her Nikon and counted, “One, two, three.”

She clicked the shutter.  She always takes two pictures before moving on.

“One more,” she said. “One, two, three. Beautiful.”

Lafayette photographer captures a neighbor during coronavirusKate Fisher / Timestamp Studios
Traci Bohy and her dog, Leo, at home in Lafayette.

Fisher also felt at home right away when she moved to Lafayette from Chicago several years ago. She describes this place as a tight knit community oriented towards art and music. She’s set herself the daily goal of furthering that connection through her photography.

“I believe in everything that [Lafayette] stands for,” Fisher said.

Fisher is inspired by the strength of Mary Miller, who founded the city in 1888.

Miller was a hard-working widow when a vast vein of coal was discovered on her farm. Newly wealthy, she divided her land into small affordable plots for miners and widows. She named the town "Lafayette," after her late husband, and she funded the building of a school, churches and a bank for miners, to make sure this was more than a mining camp — that it had the beating heart of community. 

Today, Fisher and her family live in one of those modest wood-framed miner houses. 

She ventured out for her appointment with Esmeralda Rivera, whose two daughters, niece and nephew clustered on the porch steps around their handwritten sign, which carried their message to the community.

“Believe in the miracle of love,” the sign read. Rivera and her husband adopted that motto when they married twelve years ago.   

Rivera considers this family portrait a chance to be part of Lafayette’s history. She apologized that her husband couldn’t be there because he’s at his construction job — one of the industries still considered essential. Fisher assured her she’d gladly return for another portrait when he’s available.

“What we are living is something really hard, scary,” Rivera said. “We are still okay and we are going to be okay.”

Rivera’s full-time job as a fast-food worker has been cut back to 15 hours a week. Still, as Fisher turned to leave, Rivera handed her $25 in cash to say thanks. Fisher accepted it as a donation.

“Everybody that’s been donating to this project to keep it afloat has really helped my wheels continue to turn,” Fisher said afterwards.

Lafayette photographer takes coronavirus portraitsSonya Doctorian for CPR News
Lafayette photographer Kate Fisher started a project during the coronavirus pandemic to help bring her town together. She’s photographed more than 200 front porch portraits since March 13, 2020, and posted them online.

Her own partner, a professional chef, was furloughed from his teaching job when the pandemic began. They have a 10-month-old son. But Fisher’s not doing this project for the occasional money that comes along. She says she wants to document this time, to pass it on to future generations.

And despite those financial hardships, most of what future generations will see in these photographs and messages so far is positivity.

“A lot of them are motivational speeches in a way. It’s, ‘We can do this!’, ‘We love Lafayette!’" Fisher said. "But I’m waiting for the one that is like, ‘You know, I'm really having a really hard time with all of this and to tell you the truth, I don't really know what to do.’ And then I feel like everyone in the community is going to just flood that picture and that's going to be so great.”

Fisher uses black and white photography for a historical look. The Lafayette Miners Museum will preserve these images and words for its online collection. And she plans to paint a large mural of these Lafayette faces on an outside wall of “Community,” a restaurant on South Public Road in Old Town.

“Well, I was thinking if we all can't be together,” she says, “we might as well be on a wall together."

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