A photographer and her friend started a remarkable effort called the Front Steps Project in the early days of COVID, and participating in it made a huge difference in many ways for my small town and me.
Back in April of 2020, as the new reality of COVID-19, lockdown, and social distancing was settling in, I hit a critical juncture in thinking about the future of my business. Like most of us, the feeling of uncertainty, isolation, and helplessness was a challenge, and as a business owner it also led me to question whether I had chosen the right profession. Symptoms of depression and ADHD that I’d previously been managing well began to take hold and feed off of each other, as I struggled to make decisions on next steps, what to say, what to work on, who to talk to about it.
Ultimately I just felt worthless. I knew I could work on things behind the scenes, my website, catch up on editing nature photos, send out cards, but I couldn’t help reaching the conclusion that what I was doing was pointless.
In the past when I have become bogged down and stuck in episodes like this the solution was always found in turning my attention toward helping others. But this time it felt like I couldn’t show up for people. What could I do when we were being told not to leave home for anything other than essential activities?
In the meantime I had heard of The Front Steps Project, and honestly my first reaction was one of skepticism. I belong to a number of Facebook groups for photographers and most of them argued that this concept was flawed because it introduced risk, was non essential work, not legal due to stay at home orders, etc. and I mostly sided with that logic. While well-intentioned it seemed to contradict the spirit of solidarity in everyone staying at home.
When I saw that Ryan Williams of Four Wings Photography was doing a day of fundraising however my mind started to change. Ryan is a friend, mentor, and inspiration to me, and I started to think about the risks versus benefits of this work. The Front Steps Project provided an avenue by which I could get out and do what I love while helping others, and after carefully reviewing scientific literature and state regulations I began to feel like it could be done completely safely and legally.
Around this time I also heard of a desperate need for assistance from the local Food Pantry. I sent out a message to the local listserv asking for opinions about the idea and received only positive feedback about it. Then I reached out to a trusted family friend connected to the Food Pantry as well as their director, and received incredible guidance and support. I also got excellent advice from Cara Soulia and Kristen Collins, who started the Front Steps Project in Needham in March. Finally, I decided I would give it a shot, still not expecting much.
To say the response was overwhelming (in a good way) would be an understatement. I kicked off the project on Mother’s Day, May 10th, by photographing 8 households in a 2 hour block of time. By the time I had wrapped everything up on June 5th, I had photographed 89 households over 12 shooting days, and together we raised over $7,000 for the St. Vincent de Paul Society. As a movement, The Front Steps Project ultimately spread across the US and Canada as well as other countries, raising over $3.25 million for charities across the globe!
It’s incredibly heartwarming to look back over just how generous and kind everyone who participated is. People gave not only money during an economic recession but they showed their bright spirits through their photos. I experienced real joy in capturing these images because each one represented an essential part of a community that truly cares about those in need. In just a 5 minute photo shoot I was offered a window into what makes us all unique, yet united in whatever challenges are ahead. One thing I’ll always remember is hearing heartfelt expressions of gratitude for creating a pathway through which they could help their neighbors while getting a keepsake to remind them of what matters most.
I would like to thank Kristen Collins and Cara Soulia for starting The Front Steps Project and for their guidance along the way. I’d also like to thank Ursula Nowak, Tomasina Lucchese, and Sarah Bishop for their help with organizing, spreading the word, and processing donations. Most of all, thank you to all the incredible people who participated in this project. You are what makes Lincoln great and your generosity will help ensure that everyone who calls it home can stay here safely and happily.
Corey Flint Photography, 39 Lexington Rd., Lincoln, MA 01773 617-319-3913
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