Grand County photographers document social isolation on families’ front steps
The COVID-19 outbreak has challenged communities like Grand County by asking the people to stop the one thing that makes them human.
While halting almost all in-person socialization has been beneficial to slowing the spread of the coronavirus, it hasn’t been easy. But people are creative.
In Grand, some families have turned to photography as a way to bring the community together virtually.
The posts started popping up a couple weeks ago, thanks largely to local photographer Jennifer Bauckman.
She began snapping the photos late last month for an undertaking called “the Front Steps Project.” Within a week, she had captured images from the front porches of more than 100 families across Grand County, and the project now includes over 300 households and businesses.
“It’s for people to be able to feel they are a part of something, even when everyone feels isolated, and so that everyone has a memory of their time experiencing it,” Bauckman said.
The families posed however they chose while Bauckman snapped the moment. Taking the photos for free, she sends the best images to the family so they can remember this strange moment in history.
In a photo of the Freed family, a porch overflows with stuffed animals as three sisters in onesies surround a young man who could only be their brother. He looks theatrically annoyed in his dress clothes and mismatched socks, as mom laughs in the background.
Another porch has Hopper Becker working hard on a toy tractor while mother Meagan Becker is on her computer in purple cowboy boots. One sleepy daughter in pajamas hangs on to her mom’s arm while the other daughter is standing up to make a silly face.
“This photo depicts my family so well right now,” Meagan Becker commented when the photo was posted on Facebook. “One being crazy, one being grumpy, daddy working on something (usually his Jeep project) and I’m on my computer trying to do some work.”
The Beckers are good friends with Bauckman’s family, Becker said, and when the photographer reached out to see if they wanted to participate, they were happy to join in. Her daughters enjoyed the photo shoot, but even more they liked seeing the photos of other families shared online.
“People are having fun with it,” Becker said of the project. “What else are going to do with this time in your life?”
Each photo captures families expressing themselves during a time of disruption. In many ways, the eclectic mix of familiar faces across the county demonstrates the innovation of communities to stay connected as people are pulled apart.
The Birch family’s photo has been especially popular, as it shows the four decked out like superheroes in gear like sanitizer, disinfecting wipes and Nerf guns, and shooting at a “coronavirus” that might be blue plastic cups taped to an exercise ball.
At least five local photographers have joined the project, and Bauckman has created a Facebook page to bring the Grand County front steps together.
Professional photogapher Jay Stewart got a call last week asking if he’d be interested in joining the project. As of Saturday, he had photographed about a dozen families.
“I went from having work to no work in an instant a couple weeks ago,” he said. “I saw this as a way to be part of the county, use my camera and get to see some human beings.”
After a family reaches out to him, Stewart talks with the family on the phone for a few minutes to brainstorm ideas. He enjoys the fun photos, whether that’s a family in Halloween costumes or kids in their ski gear.
“It’s just fun,” he added. “The thing I noticed is people just enjoy seeing someone else in person again… For a few minutes, we forget what’s going on and have fun.”
Stewart has a long enough lens that he can stand about 25-30 feet away from the front porches, and he usually finishes the shoot in about 10 minutes.
All photographers take the photos from at least 6-8 feet away from the subjects, but even with the distance, it’s a way to connect, Bauckman said.
“It’s giving photographers a chance to get involved in the community to help the community and gives us a chance to use our cameras,” she explained. “We get to use our gifts and our talents to help people. I get to pick up my camera and air hug people from their homes.”
The first family Bauckman photographed was a dad and his two sons. She had reached out to see if the project was something the family might want to try. The dad was hesitant, but after the speedy shoot, which took only a couple minutes, he seemed pleased to have participated.
“He said, ‘That was the easiest family photo we’ve ever done,’” Bauckman recalled.
The resulting photo was the dad and his sons squinting in the sun with their dog, big smiles on every face. For many people, simply seeing the community come together in their separate places can’t help but bring a smile too.
Bauckman can be reached for photo requests at firstname.lastname@example.org and Stewart can be reached at email@example.com. Other local photographers are also taking pictures. For more, go to http://www.facebook.com/grandcountyfrontstepsproject.
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