Doortraits: A unique take on family portraits during the pandemic

Jim Barker started his photo business in October 2019. Then the pandemic hit.

“Everything fell off the grid in March,” he tells ABC RNs Life Matters.

So he called on social media and asked if people wanted to do their portraits on their front door.

The resulting series, called Doortraits (“I’m a huge fan of the Portmanteau,” says Barker) consists of dozens of photographs of Sydney siders in front of their homes.

“It was a really good chance for us to take almost everyone’s temperature at this point,” says Barker.

“I think there was a lot of confusion and fear at the time, and the project itself was a great way to use the dipstick and see how people felt around us.”

Novak (right) had lost his regular DJ appearances and festival shows.(Twelve Point Photography: Jim A Barker)
Two young women pose in a front door, one standing and one sitting, both with large soft toys.

Two young women pose in a front door, one standing and one sitting, both with large soft toys.

Krissy (left) had lost her job while Siona was able to work from home.(Twelve Point Photography: Jim A Barker)

Not everyone was fine. The series includes many people whose working lives were affected by the pandemic standstills.

Paul, a pilot, lost his job at Qantas. Novak, a musician, had canceled all of his performances. Krissy, a music booker, has been fired from her job.

Family portraits capture the pressures of living together

Barker wanted to include a family portrait on the series, so he reached out to his cousin Karina and husband Will, who lived in Wahroonga on Sydney’s Upper North Shore.

He says they had just started home with their children when the photo was taken and found it difficult.

“I think having three kids under the age of eight was obviously pretty full at first,” says Barker.

“And then it was just a cherry on top to throw in home training.”

On the day the portrait was taken, the youngest broke all the rules of social distancing by greeting Barker with a hug – but the oldest didn’t want to be part of the photo at all.

You can straight See them in the last picture, hidden in the corner, and focus on their coloring.

Man and woman sit near a window, seen from the outside. Everyone is holding a small child. A child on the right has his back to the camera.

Man and woman sit near a window, seen from the outside. Everyone is holding a small child. A child on the right has his back to the camera.

This family had just started home study with three children.(Twelve Point Photography: Jim A Barker)
A woman holds a baby while she sits on the front steps of a house. A man is sitting next to her and is holding a small child.

A woman holds a baby while she sits on the front steps of a house. A man is sitting next to her and is holding a small child.

The pandemic has changed a lot for young mother Vyvyan (left).(Twelve Point Photography: Jim A Barker)
A woman is sitting with a baby in front of the stairs of a house. A child and a man sit next to them pretending to sneeze into their elbows.

A woman is sitting with a baby in front of the stairs of a house. A kid and man sit next to them pretending to sneeze into their elbows.

Edmond and daughter June show the right way to sneeze.(Twelve Point Photography: Jim A Barker)

For families with younger children, the pressures were different. Vyvyan, a mother of two, who works on social media, said Barker’s life hasn’t changed much, other than the increased mental stress and difficulty in finding toilet paper.

The couple, Edmond and Tess, had their second child the week that Australians began self-isolating.

“We’re glad it was the second child we had under these circumstances,” they said to Barker. “It would have been a lot more difficult if it had been our first time.”

Some families had unexpectedly been thrown together by the Australian coronavirus response. Chevy lived with her mother, who could not return to Britain.

A young woman is standing in front of a front door while another woman leans in the door.

A young woman is standing in front of a front door while another woman leans in the door.

Chevy (right), a theater costume designer, was also made unemployed by the pandemic.(Twelve Point Photography: Jim A Barker)
A young woman is sitting on the steps leading to the porch of a white weather board house.

A young woman is sitting on the stairs to the porch of a white weather board house.

Jules’ new friend, also known as Jules, sent recordings of herself playing the acoustic guitar.(Twelve Point Photography: Jim A Barker)

The pandemic also kept people apart. Jules had just started seeing her new friend and they had a video chat meeting.

“I’m sure a little more contact would have been nice, but [they are] Make the best of a bad situation, which is always easy to see, “says Barker.

The clothing of the test subjects has a meaning

When Barker was in the middle of the project, he wanted to do something different – so he photographed his girlfriend Kitty in “full burlesque make-up”.

“She made it into the New South Wales state finals for the burlesque dance competition this year,” says Barker.

“Obviously that couldn’t go on because of the restrictions.”

A woman makes a pose in a doorway. She wears a red corset and panties covered with a red translucent dress with furry cuffs.

A woman makes a pose in a doorway. She wears a red corset and panties covered with a red translucent dress with furry cuffs.

Kitty’s burlesque costume is perhaps the most noticeable clothing a theme carries on the show.(Twelve Point Photography: Jim A Barker)
A woman with a beauty mask on her face and a towel on her head is standing outside wearing a tracksuit.

A woman with a beauty mask on her face and a towel on her head is standing outside wearing a tracksuit.

Lea says she told her work that she would look like this in isolation.(Twelve Point Photography: Jim A Barker)
A woman wears a wide-brimmed hat while sitting on one knee in a doorway next to a pot of coffee.

A woman wears a wide-brimmed hat while sitting on one knee in a doorway next to a pot of coffee.

The photographer Yaya asked to wear her hat for her “door portrait”.(Twelve Point Photography: Jim A Barker)

Kitty’s photo is in stark contrast to that of the publicist Lea, who wore a towel on her head and wore a moisturizing face mask and a tracksuit.

“She knew exactly what she was going to wear before she even stepped in front of the camera,” says Barker.

“So she gets around 100 percent around the house.”

In the meantime, colleague Yaya posed with her hat for her portrait – simply because she was no longer allowed to wear it as often as she used to.

Funds raised for Lifeline

According to Barker, the project wasn’t just about taking photos, it was also about reaching out to people, “having a chat and being open about how we all feel at this time”.

Because of this, a friend put him in touch with Lifeline to turn it into a fundraiser for the ministry.

“Mental health has always been an important part of my life, something I am very passionate about communicating with people. So it was a breeze, ”says Barker.

“In the end, we were able to raise about $ 4,000 or $ 5,000 for Lifeline through a digital exhibition of the work.”

A man sits with his feet raised on an outdoor couch and is seen through bars.

A man sits with his feet up on an outdoor couch and is seen through bars.

Craig says exercise helps him maintain his sanity, but he is still worried about the overseas family.(Twelve Point Photography: Jim A Barker)
A shaved man stands smiling at the front door of a house. The sun is shining.

A shaved man stands smiling at the front door of a house. The sun is shining.

Lifeline crisis supporter Ruben, in addition to working full-time, had increased his shift on the hotline to meet the increased demand for the service.(Twelve Point Photography: Jim A Barker)

Barker says most people in Sydney are “ready for everything to go back to normal”.

“In a way, people are still nervous and are going to die as best they can,” says the photographer.

“There is always the threat of another shutdown if something goes wrong. And now, just before Christmas, the stakes are increased with every new week. “

It is true that 2020 did not work out as anyone had planned. When he started his business, Barker didn’t expect his first photo exhibition to be in an online gallery.

“I think it worked out pretty well for me,” he says.

“I’ll just run with it.”

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