A trio of local photographers is practising social distancing while taking family portraits and collecting non-perishables to help those in need.
"Because I do photography, it honestly just keeps me happy, I think," said Stacey Gabriel, who is spearheading the local initiative after learning about the Front Steps Project that began last week in Boston, Mass., during the pandemic there.
"And so when this all started (the pandemic), I just kind of felt helpless and was like ‘What am I going to do?’"
Local photographers Alyssa Friesen and Kendra Sitko are also on board, each doing five-minute photo shoots with families on their front steps, provided they leave out non-perishable goods to be donated to Samaritan House, Helping Hands and the Women’s Resource Centre.
After seeing their posts, other Westman photographers joined the initiative, Gabriel said, taking photos in their own communities, including Souris and Neepawa.
"When I originally wanted to do this project, I knew that it was going to be a huge hit," Gabriel said, and that’s when she brought in Friesen and Sitko, who have their own businesses but also work as second shooters at her weddings.
Sitko is covering Rossburn, Oakburn, Shoal Lake, Hamiota and Onanole, while Friesen is handling Rivers and Forrest. Gabriel has Brandon covered.
"It’s kind of a fun way that we can share ourselves on social media, that we’re OK and still smiling," Gabriel said.
The photographers are adhering to social-distancing protocols during the COVID-19 pandemic as they work.
"We’re using our long lenses, so we’re maintaining that 10 or even 15 feet of distance," she said. "So really, it’s no different than your neighbour walking by your house and giving you a quick wave."
The families they shoot are contacted ahead of time and asked to watch out for them at the appointed time. The non-perishable donations are left where the photographers park their cars, who then pick them up after the photo shoot and carry on to the next address.
Each family is sent three high-resolution photos. The portraits can also be viewed on the Stacey Gabriel Photography, Alyssa Raeanne Photography and Kitko Photography Facebook pages as well as #westmanfrontsteps on Instagram.
"It’s going over really well," said Gabriel, who started the project on Monday. "Lots of people were super-excited."
They have close to 100 bookings and have had to put a cap on any more to avoid getting burned out, she said.
They have set a deadline of April 1, when the non-perishables they have collected will go to Project Fill the Trailer.
"We’re hopefully going to fill it," Gabriel said.
Katrina Sigurdson read about the Front Steps Project and told her friend, Gabriel, about it.
"For me, it was such an interesting concept as a way people will remember this time and capture this moment of when we were all in our homes and on our step," Sigurdson said. "This is history in the making, so I think this is just a way to capture that, too."
She and her family had their portrait done Monday.
"I think everyone is finding it hard, but our thought has been we’re going to take what we can and turn it into positive," Sigurdson said. "So we’re spending quality time together as a family."
Right now, they have no choice.
Her and her husband Sean’s wedding and event rental business, Party Professionals, has been severly impacted by the pandemic, so they’ve had to shut it down for the time being.
"It’s going to be a long road ahead, but we’re staying positive and we’re all trying to do our part," Sigurdson said. "The faster we all do our part, the faster we can go back to life."