As I type this I just finished up my photo project, called “The Front Steps Project“. Over the span of five weeks I saw nearly 50 families. Together we raised more than $2000 for The Shoreline Soup Kitchen & Pantries. It was successful, exhausting, and exhilarating, and I want to share my experience.
I had just come back from a week in Florida with my husband when a pandemic was declared, and literally everything shut down. It was so scary and surreal. Like most people, I have never had to deal with things like quarantining and social distancing. The warnings coming from the news made me afraid to even leave my house.
My instinct was to try and do something of value to help out. On Facebook, I came across a photographer based out of Massachusetts, who started something called The Front Steps Project. Her goal was to highlight the faces of the community when we might not see them in passing at the grocery store, coffee shop, on the train or at the gym. She simply went to people’s homes and photographed them on their front steps, from a safe distance, in exchange for a good faith donation to a local charity.
Without hesitation, I was ALL over this. The whole idea just called out to me. I spent the next 8 hours straight making a page with a sign up form embedded in my website. Cara Soulia, the photographer who started this project, was very generous in how to set it up, and consequently I thank her for sharing how she ran it. I don’t think I could have set it all up without her guidance.
Finding Families For The Front Steps Project
Then I searched for a charity. I went with The Shoreline Soup Kitchen and Pantries, because they provide for towns up and down the CT shoreline, where I planned on taking photos. Now all I had to do was find some families to have their picture taken on their front porch.
I reached out to a friend in town who agreed to let me photograph her family. Once she shared the images on Facebook, it wasn’t long before I had people reaching out to me left and right to sign up.
I have to admit it was a lot of work. I spent mornings answering messages and emails, and scheduling the sessions using a google spreadsheet, as well as a calendar. Afternoons were for doing the sessions, and nights were for editing. It was important to stay on top of editing, and not let that pile up. I kept in close contact with The Soup Kitchen too. I was spending up to 12 hours a day on this.
But every afternoon, when I would meet up with two, three, sometimes four families in a row, it was truly the most amazing experience. I would think how grateful I was to be able to do this. Families would be waiting for me when I got to their homes. They were all so happy to see me, happy to be outside, and happy to be doing something positive during this stressful time.
I noticed that people were decorating their porches with flower pots and putting pretty spring wreaths on their doors, and paper hearts. A few of the families were creative and made signs and had props. I felt like I had somehow tapped into the most magical goodness there ever was.
When I got my first notification that a donation had been made to The Shoreline Soup Kitchen and Pantries, I think I started crying. I knew this was why I was doing this. I felt so incredibly grateful every single time I received an email telling me another donation was made.
Easter Sunday I made a video
On Easter Sunday, we were warned by the CDC to stay home as the worst week was upon us. I happened to look out my window and see a car pull in the driveway of my elderly neighbor. A woman and a little girl got out and held up a picture and called out they missed him. Then, when I watched Andrea Bocelli sing Amazing Grace I became very emotional. I started to look through the photos of my project, and could see the message in all of this. I had never made any kind of video before but knew with every inch of my being that I had a story to tell. That night I spent about 8 hours making my video about The Front Steps Project. It still tugs at my heart when I watch it.
The father of one of families who had scheduled a porch portrait happened to work at Channel 8 News and wanted to do a segment on the project. Then the local newspaper, The Shoreline Times, did a story too. Oh my goodness! It was overwhelming!
After a couple more weeks I started to feel really tired. My husband told me I was working 50 to 60 hours a week on this for the past month. I was so caught up with this project, I didn’t even realize it. More and more people were messaging and emailing me for sessions. I finally had to shut down sign-ups and felt so bad having to tell people I couldn’t do it.
People keep thanking for doing this project, but I am the one who is thankful. <3
Linda Sobolewski is an on-location, natural-light, professional photographer specializing in seniors, baby, family & children photography.
Linda Sobolewski Photography is based out of Old Saybrook, CT and serves the Connecticut shoreline and surrounding areas.