Photographers Capturing This Moment in History
During these times of uncertainty, it’s safe to say we are all missing a human connection with those in our community. Though we are technically “all in this together,” self-isolating at home tends to feel, well, rather isolated. It’s no wonder why “The Front Steps Project” – an idea hatched by two photographers on the East Coast to highlight faces in the community from the safety of their front steps – has launched into a nationwide movement. Looking to document this unusual time in our history, several local photographers have started their own iterations of the Front Steps Project here in Santa Barbara, and have created a welcome sense of solidarity in the process.
While some Santa Barbara photographers have followed The Front Steps Project’s model of raising money to support local organizations, others are using it as a creative outlet. Regardless of the driving cause, all the founders and participants agree that the main goal is to lift people’s spirits during this unprecedented crisis. “While everyone is hunkered indoors, I thought capturing photos would be a nice way to cheer people up and give them a memento to remember these strange times by,” says Blake Bronstad of Blake Bronstad Photography, who embarked on a limited series of what he calls “porchtraits” in Santa Barbara. Since starting a few weeks ago, he’s taken roughly 22 porchtraits free of charge for both friends and strangers.
Similarly, Nicole Berry and Sophia Taylor, the creative duo behind the photography and styling business Gold vs Black, launched their front steps project to support friends and family during these times and give back to the community in a meaningful way. “We asked ourselves, how can we keep our creativity going in a useful way right now? How can we make people smile?” explains Nicole, who shares that they’ve taken over 30 portraits of family, friends, and strangers throughout Santa Barbara, Ojai, and Ventura, and plan to do so as long as there is interest. “We’re all starved for human connection right now and this project has put us in a unique position as photographers to capture this moment and open that door to see people,” says Sophia, who shares that the majority of their requested $20 minimum donation goes to the Santa Barbara Foodbank. Adds Nicole, “We’re passionate about helping people create a sense of normalcy and humanity during this time and giving back to our community, but this experience has given back to us tenfold.”
Also choosing to support the Santa Barbara Foodbank is family and birth photographer Aurielle Whitmore of Aurielle Photography, who was drawn to the humanitarian aspect of The Front Steps Project. “I loved the idea of giving back during these times,” explains Aurielle. “I was also really empathizing with those missing out on maternity photos and the families bringing home new babies, which can already feel so isolating in those first weeks, so I wanted to help people feel less isolated while documenting a piece of this history.” After taking the portraits of 77 families spanning between Buellton and Ojai over the course of two weekends, Aurielle is thrilled to have raised over $2,300 for the Foodbank. “It was exhausting, but really rewarding, and fun to meet new families and get to know other folks in the community.”
After COVID-19 “turned life upside down” as she puts it, Rebecca Farmer of Rebecca Farmer Photography found the “urge to do something meaningful” after being encouraged by her photographer husband, Jonas Jungblut. “My husband, Jonas, who is also a freelance photographer, really inspired me to do some sort of personal project during this time [that would] keep me busy while also bringing in a little income. He started his own personal project doing virtual portraits via Facetime [and was] spending hours each day connecting with people from all over the world.” Watching him capture virtual portraits and fulfill the innate need for human connection is what she says prompted her to start capturing images of local families in quarantine. “Documenting families as they are on their porches or yards has brought so much joy to everyone. I love doing these shoots because they feel real and raw. This is a global pandemic, but it feels so isolating and Ionely… if these shoots can bring a little joy then I have done my job.”
Though challenging, this period of isolation has brought neighbors, friends, and even strangers together in a new and different way and proven that though we are apart, we are still very much connected as a community. “This is truly an historic moment in time,” adds Rebecca, “and one day we can look back on these photos and remember all we have learned and how far we have come together.”