THE FRONT STEPS PROJECT (#thefrontstepsproject) was born in March 2020 when friends Kristen Collins and Cara Soulia kicked off a local fundraiser to unite their neighbours through images of life in quarantine. Along with other local photographers, they took a few hours each day to go to neighbourhoods in Needham, Massachusetts and photograph residents in front of their homes in exchange for donations to their local food pantry. It was a way to give back to their community during these uncertain times and it’s by that spirit so many photographers around the world, including Canadian Nicole Lem of Lemography, decided to carry the torch in their own communities.
At first, Nicole was apprehensive about approaching strangers to participate so she did some test runs with family and friends. Careful to stay at a distance, the photoshoots went safely and better than expected and gave her the confidence to move forward.
According to Nicole, the feedback from her subjects was incredibly positive. The families in her photos seemed to crave a bit of normalcy while living through the pandemic.
“People would get so excited when I would text I have arrived outside” remarked Nicole. “After being told of the importance of staying home, the photoshoots gave these families a reason to shower, get changed out of their pajamas and get outside (if only to their front steps of course) It was nice to give them something to look forward to.”
The Front Steps Project wasn’t just beneficial to the families Nicole shot, it was also an uplifting experience for her and her own mental health.
“Keep in mind, when I started on this endeavour, we had been in the pandemic for nearly three weeks,” exclaimed Nicole.
“Taking part in this project allowed me to safely chronicle the experiences and emotions that people were going through, during this unordinary time. Being able to capture real smiles on people’s faces was an uplifting experience for everyone.”
In exchange for the professional images, the families were asked to donate to a local charity. Big Brothers Big Sisters of Canada was her charity of choice, as they provided her and her brother great support during their time of need, at a very young age. To this day, Nicole and her brother Paul keep in contact with her brother’s “Big Brother”, Bob Beauchemin and by supporting this great cause, it has become a way to honour their relationship. TO DATE, NICOLE HAS RAISED OVER $2,000.
Nicole has always had an affinity for photography. Growing up, both of her parents were camera enthusiasts and through their passion, she found a passion of her own. Her love for photography combined with her adoration for travel has allowed her to be well rounded in order to preserve beautiful memories for herself and others. Her passion not only took her behind the lens, but on the other side of it as well as she began modelling at the age of 12.
“Modelling has taught me that photography is about patience,” says Nicole. “People think that taking a photo is just a point and click, but there is a lot more to it.
It’s an extension of what you see and how you perceive it, an art form that embodies your style. It’s a connection with your subject.
Modelling taught me posing, to be creative and to go with the flow. Some of the best photographs are the in-between moments.”
To commemorate The Front Steps Project, a photo book was created to shine a light on the breadth of how far one idea can go. It demonstrates a massive effort of good will through inspiring photographs and poignant stories of both heartache and triumph. With so many beautiful and emotional stories from across the globe, Nicole was ecstatic to hear that some of her photos made it into the keepsake.
“Connecting with the community and giving back while supporting a charitable organization that has meant so much to me, has been gratifying. It has helped to bring a little bit of joy into people’s lives. I’m excited to have been part of something so momentous.”
In times of crisis, everyone looks for a beacon of hope. While photographs may not be the vaccine for COVID-19, The Front Steps Project brought light to so many communities. It brought a sense of making an impact and it gave everyone something to look forward to.
“I’m happy that I decided to participate in this project and see it unfold in its entirety.” It really does show that even in the most challenging of circumstances, incredible kindness, love, courage, and hope exist to build, bind and connect communities around the globe.
The Front Steps Project has come to a successful conclusion and the book, ‘The Front Steps Project: How Communities Found Connection During the COVID-19 Crisis’ is available in independent local bookstores, bookshop.org and Amazon. Proceeds from book sales will be donated to charitable organizations fighting the global effects of COVID-19.
About Nicole Lem Born in Brampton and now living in Mississauga, Nicole Lem’s career in photography began about 8 years ago with the desire to pursue her passion by going back to school for Digital Photography.
As a flourishing side business, LEMOGRAPHY is getting quite the extensive portfolio. She received her Certificate for Digital Photography in 2012 from Sheridan College. Capturing events is one type of photography that Nicole enjoys. From scenic landscapes worldwide to memorable wedding photos, to fun family portraits, Nicole has photographed it all. You may have even seen some of her art from her ‘Hello From’ Collection, in one of your neighbour’s homes. LEMOGRAPHY’s diverse portfolio is influenced by her vast travel experiences and her love for adventure. Her strong connection with her clients, and her passion in capturing the moment is what has contributed to her thriving business. With always room to grow she enjoys the challenges photography presents with every new shoot. Nicole has an excellent eye and appreciation for this art and with her broad range of education as well as an abundance of experience, she will be the perfect fit for your photography needs.
Article by Jason Stacey