The Way We Were / The Sun Chronicle / Attleboro, MA
May 16, 2020 | By: Jenee Cook Photography
This week I was interviewed by Attleboro area's newspaper, The Sun Chronicle for a feature in their story, "The way we were: A look at locals' lives before the coronavirus changed everything."
It was a great reminder of how I felt two months ago and how I've been able to change my mindset. In the moment, each project seemed like a small and simple thing to keep my mind uplifted. As I began talking to the reporter and listing all that's taken place for me over the last two months, I'm blown away how each idea and project came to me at times I needed them most to keep me going. I'm grateful for the Attleboro community and for the uplifting stories our news outlets are focusing on. Where I can't work right now, I fully believe that if I take care of my clients and my community, they will take care of me when I can work again.
Jenée Cook, a professional photographer since 2012, had just opened her new Attleboro studio in January. Her schedule was full of newborn and maternity photo shoots and she had just started to design her first spring mini-sessions in the studio.
She was so excited she emailed her photographer friends this photo of the setup, in which her dog Lucy decided to pose, on March 11.
Just a few days later, though, everything changed, and on March 20 she went back to the studio to take down her sets and collect some plants. Before she did, though, she snapped another photo.
“I went back and just stared at this set and took a photo of myself mourning,” Cook said.
Shortly thereafter, she turned her sadness into action to help her community. She thought about what others were experiencing and what she could do to help.
“My job is to bring smiles and laughter in photographs,” she said. “I can’t do that right now but that shouldn’t stop me from still helping (people) smile until we can get back to the photos again.”
She did a few Front Steps Project photos, and put some Easter eggs out on her studio door for the Great Attleboro Egg Hunt in April. She has posted free mini-photography classes on her website, sent out more than 150 photo scavenger hunt bingo cards to children (along with some stickers), and continues to send a weekly virtual newsletter with uplifting messages, how-tos and humorous memes. She sent $5 virtual gift cards to 20 essential workers who responded to a post on her studio’s Facebook page.
Then, she turned her attention to high school seniors because she has one, her daughter Shelbie, 17, at home, who has also been her assistant at weddings and photo sessions for a few years.
“She is part of my biggest inspirations for ideas for the seniors,” Cook said. “As I saw each new revelation of activities and ceremonies being taken away, I just knew families of the 400 seniors in AHS graduating class were feeling the same sadness.”
She designed a free online photo frame for social media profiles for Attleboro High School, Bishop Feehan High School and Tri-County Regional Vocational Technical High School students.
She designed a yard sign for AHS seniors and shared the design for free with families, and donated 50 goodie bags featuring snacks and a card to seniors as well.
“They signed up for a pick-up time, drove up to the studio and I placed their bags in their trunks while wearing a mask and gloves,” she said. “Zero contact. Lots of smiles.”
Next, she plans on helping other small business owners with the We Are Open Project. She plans on selecting 10 local businesses by way of public nominations for photo similar to the Front Steps Project.
Cook says she felt hopeless and scared in that last photo she took of herself in her studio.
“I was scared I would lose my business, and I didn’t know what was going to happen during the quarantine,” she said. “I’ve found strength through uplifting others and giving back to my community.”