Q&A with Scott Streble on the Front Porch Portrait Series
Posted August 5th, 2020 by Blaine Garrett
Photographer Scott Streble reflects on portraiture, creating during a pandemic, and his latest project
Scott Streble is a Minneapolis-based location photographer best known for his documentary photographs of people. Through more than thirty years honing his art, he is able to portray his subjects with beautiful realism, honesty, and the utmost dignity. His latest project, the Front Porch Portrait series, captures the the simple bliss of having your portrait taken - a moment to stand in the sun with your loved ones, to document joy within an otherwise tumultuous time. Our homes have all at once become our offices, our schoolrooms, our sanctuaries, our safe havens - symbols of the isolation, inequity, and resilience of this moment in history. It’s complicated, like any family, and Scott is there to capture it. Scott is raising money on Kickstarter to publish the series into a book. We interviewed Scott about the project to learn more.
What was the inspiration for the Porch Portrait series?
I was sitting on my sofa complaining about not having work due to Covid (I normally stay busy, shooting 5 assignments/week). My partner, Jessica, suggested I do these portraits. Doing Porch Portraits is not an original idea, but this sort of work was a great fit for me, so I started the next day. I want to show the positivity that people still possess in this uncertain time. It also gives people a chance to be part of something bigger, along with giving everyone a remembrance of this time. Lastly, it fulfills me creatively.
As Covid-19 has many people not venturing far from their own neighborhoods, you were visiting many. Did you gain any insight into how different parts of the city were affected differently?
I was actually surprised at how similar things were within different neighborhoods. I think this is testament to the fact that all people are both resilient and hopeful. These photos gave them a chance to portray this. When I took photos in North Minneapolis, there were many who thanked me for including their neighborhood, as it is often overlooked.
What draws you to Portraiture?
I like people as much as photography. Photography has given me permission or a license to meet interesting people and hang with them, even though it is often just a brief time. I've photographed a wide range of people in a wide range of environments. Photography has allowed me to observe a huge range of life that would be hard to attain from anything else I can think of.
How many Porch Portraits did you take? How did people find out about the project?
I shot over 500, and there will be room for about 230 in the book. These are selected-based on the photo, desire to show a range of people, and neighborhoods. Initially, I placed an ad on Nextdoor and then used Facebook and reached out to community leaders. The project is now self-sustaining. I get about 10 requests per week.
How do you feel your role as an artist has changed through your career?
Early on, I thought I could be the photographer for everyone, but realized what I am best at and happiest doing. I then look for clients who want that sort of work. I want us to both feel like we are a good fit for one another. I've also learned that photography is a good vehicle to help people, and I look for ways to do that. As a result, almost all my work is for non-profit entities. From a technical standpoint, the equipment I use has been drastically pared down. Having a lot of gear can get in the way of the types of sensitive situations I work in. The current gear has become compact and quiet to use, making it a good match for what I do.
How did you approach the Porch Portrait Series differently from your regular practice?
The Series is much more casual as the photos are free to the people, and I need only spend a few minutes. Even on a paid assignment, I often feel the best photos happen early in the process in regard to expressions, but I'll continue on and shoot multiple variations, giving the client lots of options. There is zero pressure, which works great, as everything is relaxed. I will be carrying these experiences over to my commercial work.
With so much art experienced online lately, what do you feel is the significance of physical photo book?
Good Question: I do have a dedicated website of the work (www.mnporchportraits.com) Doing a book has a certain gravitas that online does not have. Holding the photos in your hand and seeing the quality can't be matched by looking at them on-screen.
For more information on the Porch Portrait series, visit the official website. To help make the Porch Portrait Book a reality, pre-order a copy before the Kickstarter ends August 20th. You can also see more of Scott's work on his website and via his Instagram.