Make sure your front door looks nice. You might wind up Insta-famous.
Since the spring of 2014, Deb Cohen has taken more than 3,000 photographs of front doors across New England as part of The Front Door Project, a web-based gallery that focuses on highlighting front doors across the region for their aesthetic beauty and historical significance.
What started as just a hobby as part of her daily walks quickly became a passion project for Cohen, a resident of West Hartford, Connecticut.
“It was as simple as me wanting to get out and be outside more and get some more exercise … I found [walking] to be very boring and I just started paying attention to the homes in my neighborhood and thought, ‘Well, I’m going to start taking some pictures to keep me occupied as I walk,’” Cohen said.
Her daughter, who was then a freshman in high school, turned her on to Instagram and the rest is history with thousands of photos of homes across New England featured as part of the The Front Door Project.
What Cohen looks for is a beautiful facade on a home, she said.
“I try to look for a composition that’s unique whether it be the architecture of the home that’s very special or it could be a simple home the homeowner has taken great pride in and has really made an extra effort to give some curb appeal to the property,” she said. “It could be the house itself might be cute, but nothing special, but once the homeowner paints the door a bright color or there’s a beautiful garden out front or an all flowering tree in the fall, it’s just really the whole composition of the front part of the home that I look for.”
Cohen said she’s received mostly positive responses from homeowners of the photos she’s taken, and there’s been only one time when an owner didn’t want their front door photographed.
“It’s funny because a lot of the homes, the kids see it because the demographic on Instagram tends to be younger and then they’ll tell their parents, ‘Oh my gosh, our house was on Instagram!’ It actually just happened last week. A homeowner saw her photo and commented and she was absolutely thrilled. It made her day.”
For her day job, Cohen works as the chief financial officer for the Mark Twain House and Museum in Hartford, and said her work life and passion for photographing homes connect through her love of historical homes. A good portion of the homes she’s photographed date back to the 1600s, 1700s, and 1800s.
“I was most attracted to historic kinds of architecture,” Cohen said. “It’s led me to advocacy for historic preservation. I’ve also joined our local historic commission in the town of West Hartford. It’s just really gotten me familiar with what it takes to preserve a home like that,” Cohen said.
The Front Door Project was the first time Cohen became involved with photography. She said she started out with her iPhone and then in late 2015 switched to using a camera for most of her photography.
“It was just sort of random,” she said. “I guess I could have started out photographing anything, but I focused on homes because I live in an area where there’s lots of homes. The homes are very close together and you can see a lot when you’re walking.”
Cohen is currently working on a book project that compiles previously unreleased photographs of homes with some of her best works taken during the past four years, she said.
“Back in December of 2016, I was contacted by a small publisher outside of Boston by the name of Union Park Press and the woman who runs the business there contacted me and wanted to talk with me about the possibility of doing a book together,” Cohen said. “So, I have been working over the last year and a half at this point, traveling to a variety of locations across New England to take pictures for this book. The book will be organized by season and it’s going to feature homes throughout all six New England states. I’m really excited about it. I’m working to get the final content to them in the next month or so and it should be out for sale in October.”
The book will feature historical information and comments on decor and the architecture of homes, she said.
Cohen said she’s seen memorable homes in Massachusetts, specifically in Lenox and Stockbridge. Some of the styles of historic homes she’s fond of include Carpenter Gothic Victorians, which are often found on Martha’s Vineyard, Craftsman-Style homes, and modern architecture that isn’t cookie cutter.
For Cohen, one of her favorite things about photographing homes is capturing the perfect moment.
“Sometimes it’ll just be how the light is hitting the windows to just make it glow and just accenting the architecture so perfectly,” she said. “Many of the most popular homes that I post on my Instagram are small homes — capes and small cottages. I think people really respond to that because somebody can take a small home and make it very welcoming and charming. It also appears more attainable to most people as opposed to showing luxury homes.”