Free Portraits in the Park
By Alexander Lee
Building Community through Photography
Local photographer Amanda Williams armed with a camera, a squad of enthusiastic collaborators, and a surplus of creativity is the mastermind behind the project, ‘Portraits in the Park’, a series of monthly free photoshoots that have provided Astoria Park with a welcome spark of community building over the last few months.
Williams’ interest in photography is relatively new. “During the pandemic, I was like: You know what, I’m going to get a really great camera, and I’m going to go for it,” Williams said. Nowadays, she does all kinds of professional photography work, ranging from sports photography (her true passion) to filmmaking and fashion photography. But the portraits she’s taken in Astoria Park form the core of her portfolio, shining a spotlight on the beauty of Astoria Park and the diversity of the Astoria community.
Though Williams promotes her events on Reddit and social media, many Portraits in the Park participants find their way to her sessions through word-of-mouth, or by simply stumbling into the canopy that she and her friends usually set-up as a waiting room of sorts. “We want everyone, from the moment they walk up, to feel good,” Williams said. “To feel like we’re friends here. If you guys want to hang out later, let’s do it!”
Williams has used the latest Portraits in the Park sessions to provide her fellow Astoria residents with an outlet for their own creativity. In September, the theme of the shoot was pet portraits; last month, Williams snapped photos of Astorians decked out in Halloween costumes. “I do the theme stuff because it brings out a different side of people,” Williams said. “They’re able to let loose in a different way.”
For this month’s shoot, Williams is thinking about inviting participants to wear Christmas get-ups and take photos for their holiday cards. “And then November is my birthday month,” Williams said, “so something crazy might happen.”
No matter the theme, Williams’ Portraits in the Park series has been a resounding success, bringing Astorians together during a time in which many have spent months cooped up indoors. To be notified about the time and date of the next free shoot, follow Williams on Instagram @ayeuuedits. You’ll be sure to make new friends—and get some quality headshots on the way.