Asheville photographer captures pandemic in porch portraits from 6 feet away


A collection of portraits taken by Asheville photographer Rachael McIntosh in recent weeks as part of a project where she’s shooting family portraits on people’s porches during this season of pandemic. She calls the project Asheville 6ft Apart./ photo courtesy of Rachel McIntosh

Editor’s note: Photographer Rachael McIntosh has suspended her project until the Buncombe County-wide “stay home, stay safe” order is lifted.” 

In response to the novel coronavirus outbreak, Asheville fine art wedding photographer Rachael McIntosh recently launched a family portrait project she’s calling Asheville 6ft Apart. McIntosh joins a number of other photographers from Asheville, Western North Carolina and around the U.S. who have turned their lenses on families and individuals stuck at home. Here’s more about how McIntosh came to her project, in which she hopes to photograph 500 families on their porches. This email question-and-answer was conducted about two weeks ago (late March.)

Question: Hey Rachael! Will you start off by just telling me a little bit about yourself? How long have you been in Asheville? What do you usually shoot in your photography business?

McIntosh: I’ve lived in Asheville for 20 years and have been a wedding and portrait photographer for the last ten of those. I’m originally from the UK.

Q: When did you have the idea to start shooting porch portraits of people during this coronavirus outbreak?

McIntosh: Last week (late March). I was feeling really cooped-up and missed working. I had spent a good part of the week chatting with my wedding couples that are having to postpone their weddings. It was just a random idea of how I could serve the community maybe and spread a little joy? But then I explored the idea of creating in essence a portrait of Asheville by stitching all of these different portraits of families on their porches to together as a community.

It became a personal photography project to create a portrait of Asheville 6ft apart. I knew I had to be at least 6ft away from my clients and outside which is why I thought the porch would be a great location. I also love how the front-entrance ways of people homes have a lot of character and are literally and figuratively speaking the doorway into their personal spaces. We take pride in our porches, we spend time on the stoop, drink our morning coffees on the steps watching the world pass by and chat with our neighbors there.

Q: How many portraits have you shot so far?

McIntosh: Around 75

Q: How many do you have lined up to shoot?

McIntosh: Maybe 150 so far?

Q: Can people pay you for your photos?

McIntosh: No it’s not about getting paid it really was just an idea to spread a little joy to each family that spiraled into a personal photo project to keep me busy and sane.

Q: What are people’s reactions as you meet up with them?

Rachael McIntosh/ photo courtesty of Rachael McIntosh Photography

McIntosh: I think it’s been a fun little distraction and my subjects seem to think it’s a really cool idea. People have been very responsive. I’ve encouraged people to come as they are and just be themselves to document real-life!

Q: How do you think people are handling this situation right now?

McIntosh: I’ve experienced all kinds of emotions, and remarks about the current situation. I think the Asheville citizens are really making the most of it and keeping their heads-up though. There’s a little bit of fear and frenzy, but I think it’s nice to get some quiet time with the people you love the most and slow down a little.

Q: What will you do with all these photos once you hit your 500 mark? Do you imagine a photo show of some type? A book?

McIntosh: I would love that! I don’t know really? I do envision them all together on a large wall or something, lines and lines of different people on different porches brought together by self-isolation.

Q: This last question is open – what is it that you would like to stress about your project? What else should we mention?

McIntosh: I will try to get to everyone that has asked to be apart of this and do hope to photograph 500 different porches. If they want to learn more they should follow us on instagram @rachaelmcintoshphotography to see more photos and watch behind the scenes. (Contact McIntosh as