NIOBRARA COUNTY – It started over a coffee. Photographers that met virtually to talk about what they were going to do during the social distancing rules in response to COVID-19. Not only were they missing out on income, but they wanted to find a way to support their communities and bring people together, just like the sessions and events they would normally photograph do.
As Cara Soulia and Kristen Collins talked some more they realized that as photographers they had a unique opportunity to document American Life as history unfolded during the COVID-19 Pandemic. So began the Front Steps Project. Following social distancing requirements, photographers wanted to take pictures of families that were quarantined at home. To document those people in their communities that were at home together and raise money for local causes. In a 10-15 minute session they would take pictures of families on their “front steps” and just ask that the families donate the session fee to a local charity or cause.
The idea took root and eventually began spreading. To date, photographers all over the country have raised nearly $300,000.00 for local charities. They are also documenting history.
Local photographer Heather Goddard with Crown & Cross Photography heard about the campaign through a photography website and decided she wanted to do her part in Niobrara County. In addition to offering pictures for the families, Goddard decided she wanted to truly document the communities of Niobrara County at this time.
Goddard began taking pictures of families and the communities with the intention to digitally archive these images with the information of who is in the picture and where they lived. This archive will be preserved for public access in the future.
As culture and photographic technology has changed people are in more pictures than ever, but they rarely have a family picture taken on their front porch or in front of their house. As photographic aesthetics and expectations have changed more and more people choose “locations” for their family pictures. Until the 1970’s almost all people had pictures of their families on their front porches and in their living rooms. That is where people documented their lives because so much of their life revolved around the family home. As the culture shifted and changed, becoming more mobile, urban and moving away from the “family home” concept, the pictures of front porches and homes became more and more rare.
Pictures of families, in all forms whether joined by marriage, biological, nuclear, alternative or even roommates taken at the site of residence tell more than a story of who lived there. Historically, these images will help future generations examin economics, demographics, race and culture based on locations, clothing, housing type and who was in the picture. It also documents the individuals who lived in a community at that time.
Those wanting their picture taken don’t need to dress up or worry about looking perfect (though if they want a formal dress they are encouraged to go for it!). These pictures are more about capturing the personality of the family. To book a session please contact Heather Goddard at (307) 349-5050 or through her FB page, Crown&Cross Photography. She is still doing sessions and her goal is to document at least 85% of Niobrara County. Images are made available to the family via messages and there will eventually be a gallery option available for families that want to order prints.