When business came to an abrupt halt in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Sandy Puć of Sandy Puć Photography got a little worried. She was already in the middle of her bi-annual food drive with clients and realized the stash of donations was running low.
“Our typically full room was down considerably, and I couldn’t stop thinking about people who were out of work and running out of food," she says.
For the 30 plus years she has been in business, her mission has been clear, make giving back an integral part of everything her business does. “It is the foundation of our organization," she says.
An innovator at heart and driven by this mission of giving back to the community, she introduced "Porchtraits," a way for her to shoot family portraits from a distance and still give back to the community during the shutdown. Sandy waited until the stay-at=-home order transitioned into the safer-at-home directive to start her Porchtraits and has been booked ever since. In exchange for a free photography session and one digital image, clients donated canned food or money.
Sandy Puć Photography has made multiple large donations to Valley View Cares food pantry and over $5,000 to the United Way.
Sandy says the technical aspects of these sessions were challenging at times. “Working on somebody’s porch was difficult because we had to social distance," she says. Photographers couldn’t get close to pose their subjects and get details perfect, such as smooth stray hairs or a shirt wrinkle. Lighting could be tricky.
Families were excited to see someone new, Sandy says, and at the same time the burden of such a sudden shift in lifestyle was evident. There were meltdowns, hairs astray, one child even sat on the potty. One of Sandy’s favorite photographs was a mom breastfeeding her baby.
“We just went with the flow and got very silly.” she continues, “It was so real-life and really reflected what that family was going through. I felt like I was seeing families spending quality time together at such a difficult time," she says.
Sandy says her clients really enjoyed themselves.
“The most enjoyable part was the efforts people put into making it interesting," she says. “We had full hazmat suits, people dressed in formal attire, kids with dirty faces and snotty noses in Halloween costumes, toilet paper, hand sanitizer, gas masks and even puppies wearing masks.”
Marlo Neuhaus-Franks, a Douglas County Schools teacher, whose family had a Porchrait made, said it was a great diversion for a good cause.
“We had so much fun with our photographer who was positive and upbeat," she says. "Given the stress of the last few months, that type of ease is what we needed to capture this historic time for our family.”
Porchtraits is the just the most recent of Sandy’s charitable work. She co-founded Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep (nilmdts.org) in 2005 which offers remembrance photography to parents suffering the loss of a baby. They’ve donated over $100,000 to the Children's Hospital with her annual Santa Charity Event. She and her team also donate time to create films for international organizations like Operation Smile and Dando Amor, among many others.
Sandy served on the Board of Directors of the Professional Photographers of America for many years. She holds the prestigious titles of Print Master and Explorer of Light from Canon USA and was awarded the Framed Network's Humanitarian of the Year award for her work with NILMDTS. Additionally, her humanitarian efforts were also recognized by L'Oreal Paris, who named Sandy a Woman of Worth.