LEXINGTON -- These are days we will remember long after they are gone -- the days when a virus swept through the country, shutting down schools, churches and concerts.
We will recall when milestone celebrations were cancelled or postponed. When we were told to stay home but refrain from holding our loved ones close. When no one knew exactly when things would go back to normal.
As a professional photographer, Bertha Bishop wanted to find a way to document it.
“These things, they will go down in history as this crazy, insane time,” said Bishop, founder of B. L. Bishop Photography, 1948 Lexington Ave “Like my daughter said, we’re primary sources for this. Someday people will ask us about this.”
During a virtual cocktail party with some of her photographer friends, Bishop heard about the Front Steps Project. Originating in Boston, Mass., the movement involves professional photographers taking portraits of families on their front porch -- while standing at least ten feet away.
“It’s just a photo of your family while you’re stuck at home,” Bishop explained. “You take a photo from a distance to kind of commemorate the time in history that we’re going through.”
Bishop hopes the photos will serve as a positive memento for families -- a way to find the silver lining in the midst of trying times.
“At this point, if we don’t find ways to navigate this and survive this the best way we can, we’ll all go crazy,” she said. “We have to find little bits and pieces of joy, things that we can celebrate. Instead of focusing on the fact that we’re stuck at home and we can’t leave, focus on the fact that we can all be together.”
Bishop reached out to former clients and posted on her Facebook page, asking if anyone would be interested in a social distancing-friendly photo session.
The response was overwhelming.
“People were so excited to do it,” Bishop said. “They were reaching out via Messenger all over the place.”
Before the Governor’s "stay at home" order took effect, Bishop spent two days photographing between 35 and 40 families at no charge. Armed with one of her longest lenses, she drove from house to house, hopped out of the car, took a few shots and was on her way.
Katie Getz, a teacher at Pioneer Career and Technology Center, said her three children were “super excited” for the mini portrait session.
“It was probably the highlight of their day after being quarantined for so many days,” she said. “Basically during this time when there’s chaos and fear for everybody, Bertha just wanted to bring a little joy.”
Some of the portraits were slightly more casual than the average family photo, but Bishop didn’t mind.
“Normally I’ll be fixing a strand of hair that’s out of place, smoothing a wrinkle in someone's clothing,” she said. “I’ve had people come out in their PJs, in their slippers, with a drink in their hand. A ton of dogs made it into the pictures.”
Erin Isch, a small business owner and mother of three, said she enjoyed the simple authenticity of the photo.
“I usually make sure we have some kind of coordinating outfits,” said Isch, one of Bishop's frequent customers. “My girls’ hair is always done. I don’t even know if I brushed it that day. They had chalk on their clothes. But it was real. It was who we were at that moment, and that’s pretty cool to me.”
Bishop hopes to resume taking Front Steps portraits after the stay-at-home order is lifted. The series is more than just a way to bless others; they’re an opportunity for Bishop to continue doing what she loves.
As health experts continue to encourage social distancing, Bishop's business has come to a halt. Events like weddings, senior sessions and newborn photo shoots have been cancelled or postponed.
“It’s scary because this is my full time job,” said Bishop. “I hope and pray that the business that I’ve built is strong enough to withstand this and come out stronger on the other end.”
In the meantime, she's is doing her best to be hopeful.
“The positives will come out. We always learn from things that are difficult,” she said. “Hopefully make us better people.”