I have been working primarily as a wedding photographer for the past six years. Whilst I’ve occasionally shot the odd family or commercial job, weddings have been my passion and main source of income since 2015 when I left my admin job and went self-employed full-time. I’ve worked incredibly hard building up my business, shooting weddings across the country, networking, learning, spending nearly every weekend since 2015 away from my family.
Gearing up for busy wedding season
In February of this year I was gearing up for my busiest season yet, with a full diary of nearly thirty weddings booked. By the end of February I had already shot two weddings and COVID19 seemed like a problem somewhere else – we could never have imagined the impact it would have across the world. Into March as the threat loomed closer and closer to home and we began reading and re-reading the news, the collective wedding industry began to get nervous. We all know how this story ends.
By the 23rd of March we were in lockdown and every wedding booked from April to June was postponed to later in 2020 and into 2021. I was in a very fortunate position that I could easily move nearly every wedding to a later date with minimal impact. I spent hours soothing nervous brides, reassuring them that postponing would mean that we could have one hell of a party when the coast was clear and the Coronavirus Bogeyman no longer loomed so menacing. And then my July weddings postponed, now August, now September. For the first time in nearly six years, the year stretched in front of me, the diary a mess of crossed-out names and a complicated matrix of arrows and circles.
I’m sure we’ll be reading think-pieces and studies about the impact of lockdown on mental health. Furloughed or fired, a workload reduced or postponed year has (money concerns aside – a nasty beast that one is) given us a bizarre stagnant existence. For the self-employed who only have had to answer to ourselves and rely on the (minimal) crumbs thrown our way by the government (again a topic for another day), besides working out financial survival and diversifying out businesses to give them a fighting chance of still standing on the other side of this. In between homeschooling my five-year-old, learning how to bake sourdough bread (and tracking down the lockdown gold dust that is flour), obsessively reading the news and trying to ignore my quickly diminishing bank balance I hit a bit of a mental low point. I’m a person who has worked consistently since I was 13 years old bussing tables at a local cafe in my native Vermont. I worked full-time all through high school and University alongside my coursework, indeed I was brought to the UK by way of a 2-year nannying job straight after finishing my theatre degree. I genuinely do not know how to not work.
Reading up about ‘Porch-traits’ and how to support people and charity
But the government guidelines were very clear and I genuinely did not want to put a foot out of place, both for my own health and safety (I’m an asthmatic and respiratory viruses can hit me quite hard when given the chance) and for fear of being an asymptomatic carrier and passing it onto someone even more vulnerable than myself. I had read about these ‘Porch-traits’ or lockdown family photos building momentum in the international photography community and I was inspired but unsure how I could safely and morally take them on.
The Pankhurst Trust
It was only when reading the frightening statistics about domestic abuse in lockdown and the work that The Pankhurst Trust was doing to aid women and children during this time, that I came up with the idea of WHY I would take on the project for myself. The Pankhurst Trust is a collaboration between Women’s Aid Manchester and The Pankhurst Centre.
From their website: ‘The Pankhurst Trust brings together Manchester Women’s Aid and the Pankhurst Centre. We work together to ensure the powerful story of the women who won the vote continues to inspire us all to challenge gender inequality, and to ensure that those suffering from domestic violence and abuse get the confidential help they need.’ Through The Pankhurst Trust website, I was able to set up my own JustGiving page where I could collect funds that would directly go to the trust and aid in their heroic efforts PLUS I could safely shoot whilst social distancing on my 1 hour of exercise – I only booked sessions that I could reasonably travel to on foot within a 1 mile radius of Sale Town Centre.
Growth of The Doorstep Sessions
I initially advertised The Doorstep Sessions just through word of mouth mainly Facebook and Whats App groups from my daughter’s school, but the idea caught on in a way I could never have imagined. The project naturally evolved and as I wound down the family shoots, I began to consider the small and independent businesses of Sale affected by the pandemic – there are so many more than you’d expect!
I put some feelers out there and The Doorstep Sessions: Open for Business was born.
To date, I have captured over 50 families, 20 businesses, 1 wedding celebration and raised over £1400 for The Pankhurst Trust.
Ironically in this time of social distancing, I have never felt more connected to my community and the amazing families and business owners who make it up. Sale has evolved so much in the 9 years I’ve been lucky enough to be a resident and I am so proud to raise my child here and to capture it’s beautiful faces. I am still taking on doorstep sessions for businesses affected by the pandemic and donations to The Pankhurst Trust can be made HERE.
Moving Towards the ‘New Normal’
I’m pleased to say that the majority of my clients have rebooked for later this year or 2021, which has been fantastic to be able to support them. New wedding enquiries are also slowly starting to come through as couples re-start their planning, and I am getting busier with family and commercial shoots. Socially-distanced outdoor shoots commence from the 1st August, and i’m looking forward to getting back out there!