Who couldn’t use a smile these days? Newtown-based portrait photographer Kori Doss certainly needed one.

Recently, when Connecticut’s partial shutdown went into effect due to the expanding coronavirus epidemic, a cloud hung over the state despite the sunny skies. “I've been all doom and gloom,” Doss wrote on her Facebook page. “I've had a hard time. I miss my village. I miss all things normal. I keep looking for anything positive to get me out of this funk.”

So, as so many photographers across the country have done in recent days, Doss headed out of her house armed with her camera, stopping by friends’ and neighbors’ houses to snap portraits on their porches of how families are living through the era of COVID-19, all from the recommended 6 feet away, of course. “Sometimes from the bushes,” Doss wrote on Facebook, calling the experience her “PORCHrait Project.”

For some, it was dress-up time, with a little girl transforming into a princess. Some families wrote inspirational messages on letter boards (“Even the darkest night will end & the sun will shine again”), while others opted for humor (“Mom unavailable”). A couple of youngsters even tried to break quarantine by hopping in a mini Escalade. One family really went all out, assembling a COVID-19 survival kit complete with toilet paper, all manner of cleaning products, wine, and toys and coloring books for their young daughter, who held a letter board that read, “My First Pandemic 2020: Now I get mama & dada all to myself. Stay home. Save lives.” 

Doss found her smiles. But it was more than that. One family gave her N95 masks, another gave her bleach, both of which came in handy for her husband, an ER doctor. One of the moms and Doss even shared a good cry and planned 5-minute hugs when such a thing is once again advisable. 

“While I can’t change our current situation, there’s one thing that I can do: share smiles,” Doss says. “The optimism has been contagious, even while being separated. We CAN and WILL get through this!”

A version of this article appeared in the May 2020 issue of Connecticut Magazine. You can subscribe here, or find the current issue on sale hereSign up for our newsletter to get the latest and greatest content from Connecticut Magazine delivered right to your inbox. Got a question or comment? Email editor@connecticutmag.com. And follow us on Facebook and Instagram@connecticutmagazine and Twitter @connecticutmag.

Albie Yuravich is the editor in chief of Connecticut Magazine. A product of the Naugatuck River Valley, he's also been a newspaper editor and writer at the New Haven Register, Greenwich Time, The Register Citizen and the Republican-American.