Supporting Attleboro Buisnesses With The Front Steps Project
As of today, April 6th 2020 the world is in self-quarantine in their homes. Never in my life have I ever been apart of an event that the entire world is experiencing at the same time. While I had hoped it would be for something like a world declaration on peace or an end to world hunger, it's completely surreal everyone in the world is experiencing the same hopes and fears over an event in the same moment: the worldwide pandemic of the Covid-19 virus.
The CDC has mandated we stay at least 6 feet away from other people. The mandates keep changing day by day however. What started 3 weeks ago as no gatherings of people of more than 100. Then to 50 now this week to no more than 5. I feel a sense of betrayal by our government from just a month ago being told this is just like the flu. That it would be gone by April. My own husband is a health care worker and the CDC who said up until a week ago face-masks must be changed for each patient are now advising to use a bandana to protect themselves.
As the last couple of weeks progressed, people are home and afraid to leave their front doors. We are scared what tomorrow is going to bring, if tomorrow brings illness or death of a loved one. In the beginning of March, Needham, MA photographer Cara Soulia saw this as an opportunity to take her photography talent and uplift her community to help raise money for local support and to bring a reprieve from fear. She titled the project The Front Steps Project.
The idea and challenge spread like wildfire to other Photographers and communities jumped on board. While using a long lens and being well over 20 feet away from front doors, in the street or across the street even the Photographer documents a moment in time that otherwise feels hopeless.
My heart was moved. I wanted to be apart of this project! I was excited to be the means of a way to support my local small businesses in the Attleboro community. In lieu of being paid for a family photo on the front steps, I asked for a donation to be made to an Attleboro small business and then the family to post their image on social media with a positive uplifting message.
I chose two days a couple of weeks ago to allow my community to participate in The Front Steps Project. I was met with such love and support from complete strangers and friends wanting to be apart of the project. I genuinely believe people are good and want to help others. Sometimes they just don't know how. So, seeing that I was organizing a way for them to help their neighbors, people were moved. The Sun Chronicle, our local newspaper even caught wind of what I was doing for Attleboro and featured the story. Which is so weird for this awkward introvert! I didn't set out for any recognition so I'm still kinda pretending it didn't happen. :)
As I set out on my route, over the two days I met so many amazing people: an Anesthesiologist just getting off call to snuggle his family on his front steps. Sweet little giggles from his two little ones for a moment offered a sense of calm, love and normality.
I photographed the owners of Fitzy's, a local small restaurant that employs 30 people who are all furloughed. Many of whom have families of their own at home now without income. I saw the weight of that knowledge on the family's shoulders as I photographed them. I photographed three different families that had welcomed new babies: 10 days, 14 days and two months before into their homes. I photographed a family with their much loved little dog then days later learned that was the last family photo they'd ever take with her as she passed away. I photographed two different women who work at our local hospital in admissions. They are the happy faces you see when walking into the ER. A Nurse from the same hospital was also so happy to document this time with her family. I photographed two teachers that had to figure out how to keep their students engaged and on-track by transitioning to all online format classrooms. A new format that is being instituted throughout the country.
As with all good attention also comes the opposition. One that stuck out to me was, "why would anyone want to remember right now?" I say, why wouldn't you want to remember right now? We are scared but also neighbors and communities are the most compassionate I have ever seen. With posting red hearts on their front doors to say "thank you" to medical personnel they don't even know, blue ribbons tied on trees saying "thank you" to all essential workers, community egg hunts for complete strangers, "bear hunts" for the kids (display a teddy bear in your window for kids to find), being "chalked" where a message in chalk is written on the driveway. Along with the good, families want to capture what it was like to have gratitude, humility and to do something that is "normal." Having your photo taken in our era is "normal." We believe we capture moments forever with a photograph. Births, death, happiness, sadness, fear, triumph...we document it with photography. And right now, people are scared that this could be their last photo with their loved one. That's heavy, sorry.
As far as "payment" my heart is overwhelmed with all the support that was poured into the community. I met one amazing woman who through this project supported a local pizzeria and sent lunch to nurses at the local hospital as her "payment" for participating in the project. That one felt so amazing to be apart of! One family purchased from a small business owned skin-care line while others made a purchase from a local art framer and another from Sweet Stuff Bake Shop bakery. Gift cards or purchases from small local business restaurants: Bliss, Morins, Briggs, Conova's, Chef Pelon, Papa Gallos, Fitzy's, Blue Moon, Weatherlaines, Whisk and Paddle and The Burgundian. The bookstore An Unlikely Story, The Interfaith Coalition to help support food insecurity in our city and also donations to the local food pantry.
As of right now, fear is growing. Fear of what is going to happen in the next couple of weeks. Will we see a dramatic incline of death and illness? How much more damage will this pandemic bring? We can and will get through all of this together!
THANK YOU so much for all of your support! THANK YOU to all who participated in the project and uplifted Attleboro by purchasing a gift card or product from a local small business. My heart is overwhelmed by the truly beautiful souls I have met. Stay safe, stay healthy, stay home.