I love photographing family sessions in my Attleboro community. Through family portraits, I get to document such important moments in life.
March 2020 brought the entire world to a halt. A scary, terrifying halt. The Covid-19 Virus (Coronavirus) Pandemic spread throughout the entire world. As a people, we daily watched our President and Governors give updates and restrictions. The advisory for self-quarantine was on the horizon by the Governor in MA, schools were canceled for two weeks and small businesses were scared. Scared for loss of income and the fear of a recession for months to follow. As a small business owner, I felt this fear. What could I do? Then I saw a project by a fellow local Photographer: The Front Steps Project. In exchange for a portrait on the front steps, asking for a donation by way of a purchase of a gift card or product from a local small business.
Shortly after announcing I was participating in this project, I was contacted by The Sun Chronicle! They were so excited to come out and follow me along my route as I did these photos and to be able to finally post some uplifting news. I was overwhelmed with their support as well as all of the support from the Attleboro community in wanting to support local businesses. Using a very long lens and being at a distance greater than 25 feet and further (across the street or in the street if possible) I was so excited to be able to participate in this project. It brought so much joy to the participates, myself, and awareness to supporting local small businesses!
You have to have a paid subscription to view their two articles but I've posted what I could and pasted the stories below!
Attleboro photographer sets out for area front steps to document times of the coronavirus, support local businesses
By David Linton
In an effort to help promote local small businesses and restaurants, a city photographer is heading out on a project to document these history-making days of the coronavirus.
Jenee Cook, who operates a photography studio on South Main Street, is joining the #thefrontstepsproject.
Cook, 38, following in the footsteps of another photographer, is going to local homes to take photos of families on their front steps, from 10- to 20-feet away with a long lens.
“I’m not going to be in their air or space whatsoever,” Cook said, adding that there will be no physical contact.
She's not charging for the photos.
The only thing participants have to do is to post their #thefrontstepsproject photo on social media with an uplifting message to their neighbors.
They also have to make a donation or purchase from a local business or restaurant or buy an online gift card.
“It really is going to document history,” Cook said. “This is the time of quarantine we will tell our grandchildren about.”
Cook has been a professional photographer for seven years and opened a studio at 1182 South Main St. in January.
Community-minded Attleboro photographer shoots front-step family portraits amid virus outbreak
By JUDEE COSENTINO For The Sun Chronicle Mar 26, 2020
Following the prompt of a fellow photographer’s blanket challenge, Jenee Cook spent much of Thursday photographing families — all the while standing 20 feet away and using a telephoto lens.
The Front Steps Project, as the challenge is named, encourages small-business photographers to take portraits of families on the front steps of their homes while safe-distancing to keep the coronavirus from spreading.
For several of her photo shoots, that distancing often required her to stand in the middle of the street in quiet neighborhoods. On busier roads, she maintained her distance by standing either at the end of a driveway or on the sidewalk.
It took less than 30 seconds for Cook to capture a family’s moment in time in the midst of a world pandemic.
“You guys look so cute!” Cook told 11-year-old Emily and 7-year-old Clara Smigel as they played on the swing in front of their Mayhew Drive home.
Much like the day Clara was born and the “smashing” of her first birthday cake, the photo shoot in the time of the coronavirus continues the family’s story, according to Sheila Smigel.
“She’s capturing a life moment,” she said.
In lieu of payment for the photographs, each family is encouraged to give any dollar amount they wish to any local business in their community. Likewise, when the family photos are posted to social media, they are asked to provide a “positive message” to their community.
The initiative was well-received by the families Cook photographed, including Brian and Astrid O’Driscoll, whom Cook photographed balancing their three young daughters on their laps while sitting on the porch steps.
“I think it’s a great idea. It’s good to support local businesses,” said Astrid.
Another family, Ken and Kylie Macie of Attleboro, whom Cook photographed with 6-year-old Amelia and 3-year-old Emery, were eager to use their federal stimulus package for the same purpose.
“We want to spend it locally. (Our family) doesn’t need it,” Ken Macie said. “I’m concerned with the businesses in downtown Attleboro — we’ve made so much progress, we don’t want to turn backwards. We want everything to keep going.”
Dominica and Joe Ribeiro, who were also Cook’s subjects on Thursday, felt the similar pinch in the closure of small businesses, as Joe Ribeiro owns Fitzy’s Pub in Plainville and employs 30 people.
“Hopefully, we’ll get open soon enough, when it’s safe,” he told Cook as she took a portrait that included their three children and two dogs.
Dominica Ribeiro praised Cook not just for her artistic work, but for her endeavors for The Front Steps Project.
“I love it; I think it’s great,” Ribeiro told Cook. “You’re donating your time to the community and not asking for anything in return, other than donating to a small business. I think it’s a selfless act.”
For Cook, whose own studio on South Main Street has been affected by the state’s closure of nonessential businesses, the ability to “get out there and create art again” has made her feel alive.
“My drive, my desire, is to be able to create art,” Cook said. “It’s great to remember why I went into this business — to create art and to document families.”
Families who would like a photo session can visit Cook’s website, jeneecookphotography.com, and click on “The Front Steps Project” tab, which has an appointment form
*Photos by The Sun Chronicle Photographer Mark Stockwell
The local cable network DoubleACSNews Channel 15 also tagged along for a bit with The Sun Chronicle. Here is their broadcast from the project: