Photographers get involved in Front Steps Project


Professional photography isn’t considered an essential business during the coronavirus and COVID-19 pandemic.

That, however, doesn’t mean all of them have put their cameras away.

Kirstie Newkirk of Cortland, who runs Kirstie Captures It Photography, recently read about the Front Steps Project in a photography support group she’s involved with on Facebook.

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She said the purpose of the project is to bring people together when they might feel isolated, and it’s an opportunity to document a time when families are not at work, school, playing sports, etc. and to document this unique time in history when people are in downtime and at home being unbusy and enjoying time with each other.

“I thought it was a neat time in our lives of being quarantined to step outside and see what everyone has been doing inside,” Newkirk said.

She introduced the project to fellow photographer Blaine Stout, who grew up in Vallonia, now lives in Seymour and runs Blaine Stout Photography.

“I was looking at her photos she had captured of these families in our community and I knew I had to get in on this,” Stout said.

“I myself, like Kirstie, am all about people, family, being social, capturing moments that become memories, beauty,” she said. “When I capture these quick moments of families, it is more than a photo, it is more than a soon-to-be memory, it is more than an image during a pandemic. These images are love, bonding, growing closer to your family, growing closer to your community, finding a moment to smile and have a little piece of normal.”

Newkirk said a friend who is a photographer is losing around $8,000 from canceled sessions for senior and wedding photography.

“To me, this project is a bit of sunshine during this storm,” Stout said. “We will come out of this stronger as our people continue to show daily. I feel very blessed to be a resident of Jackson County and a part of this free, fun project.”

Families who want to participate should reach out to Newkirk or Stout on Facebook by commenting with the hashtag #frontstepsproject. Then they will contact them to set up a time to come by their house and capture photos outdoors while practicing social distancing.

Because Jackson County is under a travel advisory watch, Newkirk said she’s only taking photos in Cortland, White Creek and Jonesville.

“I’ve done (pictures for) a few neighbor friends from 10 feet away by myself in my car,” Newkirk said. “If I can see your porch from my car, you’re in.”

She said it’s not a typical photography session where people have to get dressed up and pose. If families want to do that, however, it’s fine. It’s all about what they want the photographer to capture.

“Want to stand outside in your pajamas and slippers? Sounds good to me,” Newkirk said. “Kids in mismatched clothes but you’re thrilled they got dressed? Grab your wine glass or beers? Fantastic. A chance to get dressed up since you haven’t in a while? Perfect.”

Stout said she has taken pictures on her way to and from her essential job with JMA Railroad Supply Co., to pick up face masks for family and friends that her aunt is making or to and from getting food from local small businesses.

Jamie Temple of Brownstown said she has been friends with Stout for more than 25 years. She was happy to have Stout capture photos of her family and their dogs.

“We have had each other’s backs from Day 1. She started photography as a hobby a couple years ago, and then it took off as a pretty successful business,” Temple said. “She contacted me (Tuesday) with the idea of doing a drive-by photo shoot on our front porch that evening. I had seen this idea on social media and thought it was neat to document this time.”

Stout captured the photos on her way to her mother’s home.

“We live along the way, so she said she would text me, drive up, take a couple of pictures and drive off. That is exactly what happened,” Temple said. “We all ran to the front porch when she was pulling up, and she captured us as we have been for the last three weeks.”

Temple said the Front Steps Project is a great idea, and the family had a good time participating.

“These times are super tough on us all, but the positives that are coming out of it will last a lifetime,” Temple said. “The extra time spent with our children, the world slowing down were all things we needed right now more than ever. I am grateful that Blaine reached out and was able to do this on her essential trip out.”

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Families who want to participate in the Front Steps Project should reach out to Kirstie Newkirk or Blaine Stout on Facebook by commenting with the hashtag #frontstepsproject. Then they will contact them to set up a time to come by their house and capture photos outdoors while practicing social distancing.


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