25 Mar Bringing Joy to the Community in COVID Times by Lena Antaramian
Back in the early days of the pandemic (when we did not know what to expect but things looked very scary) I, like so many others, felt so powerless. I was not a doctor or a nurse, I was not an essential worker, but I wanted to do something to bring joy into people’s lives at the time when joy was hard to come by. So, when I heard about Cara Soulia, a photographer from Boston, who started a grass roots effort called the Front Steps project, I jumped on board. The idea behind this project was simple – I would donate my photography services and photograph a family on their front steps (from a safe distance, of course) and in return for their micro session and a family photo, they would make a donation to a local charity.
So, on March 14th I spent a few hours putting together a page on my website describing this project and setting up a GoFundMe page to collect donations for a local low income senior housing center in exchange for my photography. Once that was done, I sent a text to a few neighbors asking them if they wanted to participate in this project and literally within 30 min I was walking down my street from one front yard to another, photographing my neighbors on their front steps – from a safe 10 foot distance. I absolutely LOVED it – this was the first time in weeks that I used my camera and doing something that I love to do felt amazing. And just like that, for the first time in a week, we were all able to take our minds off the pandemic.
And then the ‘stay-at-home’ order came.
As much as I wanted to continue with this effort, I wanted to abide by the stay-home-order even more. So, just one day after my Front Steps Project went ‘live’, I had to put it on indefinite hold.
What followed were weeks and weeks of staying at home, having all our groceries delivered, virtual learning, bread making and many Facetime calls. The only time we went outside was to walk our dogs – and even that we did on our street as even local parks were closed!
April came and went and by mid may May the stay-at-home order was lifted and things started to slowly open back up. I sent out an email to the Governor’s office to make sure that I was allowed to resume with my outdoor photography services and was told that I could, provided proper social distancing protocols were followed. So, I sent emails to all the families that signed up for the Front Steps sessions and spent the next 2.5 weeks photographing families all over my town.
When I committed myself to continuing this project back in March of 2020 (once the ‘stay-at-home’ order was lifted), I thought that 20, maybe 25 additional families would sign up, and that I would raise a couple of thousand dollars for my local charity. Boy, was I wrong! I ended up photographing close to 75 families and raising $6000 for the low income seniors. A ‘life changing amount for the residents”, in the words of the charity coordinator.
I will be honest – this project was a lot of work: hours spent organizing and scheduling sessions, mapping optimal routes from one session to the next, creating and editing photos – these were hours spent away from my own family. Yet, participating in the Front Steps Project meant hours and hours of doing something that I absolutely LOVE to do – helping families bottle up and capture small every day seemingly insignificant moments – moments that are what life is made of. This project helped me find a silver lining in this pandemic and reiterate the belief that all we really need is each other and sometimes there is nothing better than sitting together on your front steps hugging your kids and being thankful for the little things.
This post was written by Lena Antaramian of Live. Laugh. Love. Photos.