Front Step Portraits Celebrate Time at Home

For his Front Steps Project, Gregory Ng of Cary photographs families while maintaining a safe distance.

Gregory Ng’s Front Steps Project Cary celebrates ordinary people at a time that is anything but normal.

His photos, taken from at least 10 feet away, respect health guidelines to keep a safe distance and also show the beauty of togetherness. Families are shown in pajamas, sweats or their Sunday best venturing out of their houses for a quick portrait. 

“It created an interesting dynamic where someone felt good about showing that their family was together, and was fine,” Ng said. “At the same time, it gave them an opportunity to get dressed, take a shower, do their hair, put on makeup and go through some of those normal routines again.” 

The Pyon family, Ella, Shirley, Ray, Eli and dog Molly, were one of the first Cary families to have their portrait made by Gregory Ng.

The idea began with Cara Soulia, a photographer in Needham, Mass., who began the Front Porch Project on March 17 as a way to strengthen her community and raise money for a local charity. The idea quickly spread to hundreds of cities throughout the U.S. and Canada. A friend from Massachusetts sent his family’s photo to Ng, and he immediately decided to launch the project in Cary. 

“This was a great way to capture, almost like a time capsule, what family units looked like and how they were together in their own home,” he said. “The idea of ‘even though we’re separated, we’re still together,’ really resonated.”

Gregory Ng shoots a photo of a local family.

Ng, the CEO of Brooks Bell digital consulting agency, is an avid amateur sports photographer and is usually at soccer games this time of year. Because all local games were canceled, he found himself with time on his hands. And he already had the necessary equipment to shoot at a distance, in most cases, from across the street.

“What was really important was the three-step mission — the portraits are five minutes, from 10 feet or more away, and it benefits a good cause,” he said.

Ng started taking photos on March 20. Eight days later, he paused the project when the state’s stay-at-home order went into effect. In that time, he shot 60 front-step portraits and raised nearly $5,000 for the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina. Roughly 600 families throughout the Triangle remain on the waiting list.

He asked two other photographers, Stacey Sprenz and Kris Teixeira, to help take photos before the deadline, and once people are allowed to move freely, they plan to start taking portraits again. But due to the overwhelming response, he has stopped adding names to the waiting list. 

“One neighbor turned into five neighbors, turned into 20 neighbors,” Ng said. 

“I’ve been overwhelmed by the amount of support. I set a goal to raise $5,000 for this campaign, and I’m only a couple hundred dollars away. So I’m pretty impressed and happy about the result.”

Shirley Pyon agreed to a family portrait as soon as Ng sent her a note about his idea. After seeing all the family photos together, she realized her neighbor’s project had larger implications.

“Not only is he taking pictures of friends, but the strangers that he’s met really showcase the diversity in our city. We have single-parent family homes, we have children with disabilities, we have families of different racial ethnicities,” she said. 

“It’s such a positive way for us to stop and think for a moment that the thing that unites us is our family.”

Pyon also says the photos will likely serve as a historical marker of the 2020 pandemic.

“I can imagine my grandkids, my great-grandkids, my great-great-grandkids looking at this photo and going, ‘Wow, that’s Grandma Shirley and Grandpa Ray in 2020. This is what they looked like standing on their front porch, when they couldn’t leave their house.” 

The project was fairly straightforward, but there were challenges. The physical distance made it difficult for Ng to direct people how to stand or arrange themselves. Cars, shrubbery and other obstacles often blocked a clear shot from across the street. And because some houses faced directly into the sun, he had to cope with people squinting or wearing sunglasses. 

“We had to get pretty creative on how to get a shot, while keeping our distance,” he said.

More portraits of local families can be seen at or on Instagram at #FrontStepsProjectCary and #FrontStepsProjectTriangle. On his website, Ng reminds visitors that the Food Bank’s need is ongoing, even if the project has paused. To donate, visit


  • Lisa Dreyer says:

    I would love to be added to your waiting list to help raise money for such an amazing cause.

    • Amber Keister says:

      Hi Lisa, you are correct that it’s an amazing cause. However due to the hundreds of people who have already signed up, Greg Ng is no longer taking names for his waiting list.

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