Bob Dylan wrote this, one of his most endearing songs, deliberately, as an attempt to create an anthem of 'change for the moment' during the peak of the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960's.
These days, that chorus line and the lyrics of the song seem to be stuck on repeat in my head.
We are all living during an unprecedented time in modern history. Because of this global pandemic, all of our fellow brothers and sisters around the globe will be talking about these days for the rest of our lives, and our collective response to this crisis will be studied and referenced for generations to come.
It's impossible to not have some sort of strong emotional response to what we are all experiencing day to day. It seems our worlds have literally been turned upside down. Schools closed, jobs lost, companies shut down, state mandated 'shelter in place' orders, hospitals becoming overwhelmed... Our lifestyles have been fundamentally changed in ways that I'm not sure we can yet comprehend.
People are scared, I get it. We should be scared. Every day seems to be a challenge just to make sense of it all with the amount of ever changing news with which we are being bombarded. Being stuck inside for weeks, and possibly months to come, doesn't give us much opportunity to escape the onslaught.
We all have our ways of dealing with this crazy situation- this information and emotional overload which can leave us drained and fearful. Despite having these same feelings now, I've always been an unrelenting optimist, and I still am. Whenever life throws us these difficult obstacles, I always try to look for the silver linings, and remembering a quote by one of Nantucket's long time favorite summer residents, Mr. Rogers, always seems to help:
"When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”
Not having grown up watching Mr. Rogers, I had actually never heard that quote until seven years ago, in the wake of the Boston Marathon Bombings. I was photographing the runners that day near the finish line, about 40 feet away from the second explosion. Thankfully, I wasn't injured and I documented the immediate aftermath, with one of my photographs ending up on the cover of Time Magazine.
A couple of days later, still numb and in shock, I ventured back to the area of the explosions, to document President Obama, who gave a very humble and heartfelt speech comforting the victims and their families and friends with words of solace and compassion, when I came across and photographed an ever growing memorial nearby. It was there that I noticed a sign carrying Mr. Rogers' quote, and reading it after witnessing and photographing the bravery and heroism of the first responders from that day, in the middle of all that horror, broke the raw emotions I had been dealing with and keeping bottled up since I witnessed the event.
I have never cried in public like that before, I couldn't help it. That quote, to me, at that very moment in time, was like a beacon of hope, a reminder that in the midst of so much darkness there will always be light shining.
...and we are all seeing that light shining today. All over the world health care workers are putting their own lives at risk in order to help save the lives of strangers stricken by this virus. Restaurant owners, grocery store clerks, utility workers, pharmacists, truck drivers, community volunteers- all risking their own lives to keep food on your table, medicine in your cupboard and connection at your fingertips.
And now, well into Nantucket's official 'stay at home' order, we are still seeing the beauty of our own small, local community coming together in an unprecedented way.
Local musicians are banding together online, creating songs to be shared live across social media while raising money for our small town hospital. Energy workers offering live, on-line group meditations and card readings, religious organizations putting together virtual services, fitness instructors and yoga practitioners creating live, on-line classes to keep us moving and healthy while stuck in our houses, crafters making homemade masks and donating them to our health care workers...
It is truly beautiful to witness, which brings me to the reason you initially clicked onto this page...
The Front Steps Project was created by Needham MA Photographer, Cara Soulia. It has grown to become a coalition of amateur and professional photographers from all over the world, going out into their communities and photographing families on the front steps of their homes, while practicing responsible social distancing.
Cara recognized the opportunity our collective situation presented to document this crazy time in our lives, while providing families a little reprieve from the new monotony it has created. I encourage you to follow the global journey by visiting the original Front Steps Project's Instagram page.
While observing all of the positive virtual outreach our island community is creating and providing, I found myself wondering how I could utilize my own skills to contribute to the outpouring of love, which makes me so grateful for being made aware of this project- and I intend to follow in Cara's footsteps here by offering the same services to our community with The Nantucket Portrait Project.
Here's how it will work:
I will be documenting this time by visiting and taking one minute family portraits of local Nantucketers. For each day that I get inquiries, I will responsibly travel to your homes around the island to snap super fast images of your families and pets on your front steps, your front porch, or in your front yard. I might be on my bike, I might be in my car, but I'll always be wearing a pinkish ball cap so you'll see me coming!
Again, the purpose of this project is to bring us together virtually when we might feel isolated. It is the project's aim to highlight the faces of our community during this time of social isolation. Participating in this project is also an opportunity for you to step up and provide help to those who will need it most in our community in the days and weeks ahead.
Once we schedule a time and I arrive, you and your family will step outside on to your front steps, porch, or yard, where I will photograph you from at least fifteen feet away. Heck, I have a couple telephoto lenses that will even allow me to take your portraits from over a block away if you prefer! I will take a few quick shots and leave. I will physically interact with no one, you will laugh at my corny jokes, and I will touch nothing other than my camera during these sessions. After your quick session I will email you a high resolution digital file of your portrait.
I do want to stress that this doesn't have to be a formal dressy portrait (unless you want it to be). Come out in your pajamas if you'd like! Play dress-up with the kids! Show off the crafts that have been created or the costumes made! Give yourself and your kids a fun activity by decorating your front steps in a fun way! Let this opportunity be a reflection of how you are coping in these strange times. I encourage you to be as creative as you want to be- but please be fully prepared to have your photos taken as soon as I arrive, and most importantly,
Just Be You!
In exchange, I ask for you to make a good faith donation to the Nantucket Cottage Hospital through this Facebook Fundraising Page.
100% of the donations collected through this Facebook Fundraiser will go directly to The Nantucket Cottage Hospital.
If you are interested in participating in this project, but would prefer not to be photographed at this time, I completely understand, yet I still encourage you to make a donation to the hospital if you can. When you do, please let me know and I will be happy to come take a portrait of your family once all this craziness has passed.
One last time I would like to stress as to the level of seriousness with which I will be practicing extremely strict social distancing guidelines as advised by the CDC while we have our very quick session. This is such an amazing community and as much as you or I might like to chat for a moment and be social, I will be moving along immediately when we are finished. Social distancing requires quite a bit of social responsibility as well from all of us. It is imperative that we take all precautions possible to maintain proper distance and have equal respect! I will be touching nothing, and I will move very quickly and obviously away from anybody who absentmindedly might approach me. Please make sure your children stay by your side, and as much as I would love to receive lots of doggy love, please also make sure your pets stay close to you during our session. I have found in my first few days that many of you inquire about tipping me personally- while the gesture is appreciated, please do not attempt to leave, or hand me cash, or anything else that would require me to physically contact. Thank you for understanding our need to be vigilant with our new social responsibilities!
More information regarding our social responsibilities can be found here:
As much as I am approaching this project as a photographer who wants to help bring this community together during these tough times, I feel this endeavor is also extremely important in it's value as historical documentation of how society chooses to respond during this unprecedented period of our lives.
Stay safe everyone and lets remember to all do our part to help flatten the curve!
I am happy and very grateful to say that I have received nothing but positive feedback from every corner of the Nantucket community with this project so far! I am overwhelmed by the amount of positive emails and messages I have been receiving from families near and far, with thanks for bringing a bit joy to their day. Quite a few messages are from people who are separated from their families on Nantucket, who are telling me how much this project truly means to them.
Given the current emotional climate in our nation due to the federally mandated 'Stay at Home' order, and combined with stricter local social distancing guidelines meant to help flatten the curve here on Nantucket, I have been monitoring the news daily, and in the interest of belaying any fear or undue negative feedback from members of the community who might not understand how safe, and important this project is, I will be making decisions as to fulfilling portrait sessions on a day to day basis.
Due to the approaching (possible) easement of the Stay at Home Order on May 18th, coupled with the surge of seasonal people starting to arrive, I am anticipating an explosion of public activity on the island, and will be pausing The Nantucket Portrait Project on the 18th, to hunker down for a couple of weeks for my own, and your safety while I monitor the situation. It is my hope beyond hope that the 18th will mark the end of the project, but if restrictions are put back in place, there is a chance I will un-pause the project once again. I will keep you updated.
I have been, and if this project resumes, will continue to be going above and beyond with my care in adhering to very strict social distancing guidelines during every single minute of my travels for the duration of this project. I travel to these sessions by bike. It is my daily exercise, the same as anyone else out jogging, biking or walking their dogs, the only difference is I'm stopping for a couple of minutes here and there to take a few photos of families from 20 feet away to raise money for our hospital, instead of stopping to take landscape photos as I usually do when I'm out for my daily ride.
To be clear, what I am doing with this project, and how I approach it is completely safe, for myself and the families I photograph, especially in comparison to those who choose to use public transportation, pick up take-out from restaurants, or step foot through the doors of our local pharmacy, grocery, liquor, or convenience stores; and most importantly, I am only one person doing this project by myself.
I'd like to offer my deep-felt thanks to all those in the community who have trusted me to safely photograph your families, you have opened your arms to me, and it has been beautiful.
If you are interested in being a part of The Nantucket Portrait Project, and would like to have an historical portrait of your family that documents this most unprecedented period of your lives, then I encourage you to click the button below and sign up, and I will be in touch to do a quick session with you if or when the project continues.