I’ve spent the last five weekends photographing fifty-five families from afar for my Bozeman Front Porch Project conclusion to raise money for local not-for-profits. Through the unwavering support of my Bozeman community, the project has been a huge success!
Thinking back on the experiences of the last five weeks of the Bozeman Front Porch Project conclusion, I find myself overcome with absolute gratitude.
Still, there has been so much to process personally and collectively as a member of my community.
Montana COVID-19 stay-in-place directives forced the country and my photography business into a holding pattern. I saw a lot of uncertainty and fear with all the drastic, fast-moving changes that we were experiencing as a community and nation.
As I was figuring out how I would support my photographic livelihood moving forward, I also was dealing with the realization that my grandmother was being admitted into hospice for her end of life care.
An ironic twist to an already surreal time in our world.
In late March, I was at home with my family in Missoula and supporting my grandmother. It was the week before stay-in-place directives kicked in. During that time, I came across some favorite family photos that I had made of my grandmother throughout the years.
As the end of her life neared, those photos had suddenly become priceless to me. Those captured memories brought up so many wonderful emotions of love.
Over the years, how many of us have made excuses to put off making the time to be present with our families?
I think we’ve all be guilty of it.
Yet once those loved ones are gone (or a mandated stay-in-place separates us), we would do anything to be back in their presence. To once more savor their cherished expressions that encapsulates who they are – just one more time. Good storytelling photography can be that bridge to tap into all those emotions we hold dear towards our loved ones.
During this time of uncertainty and social distancing, I wanted to be a remedy.
I was looking for a path to give back and help my community in any way I could.
I realized that while we may be socially distancing from our neighbors, now is a time to experience the precious moments of togetherness with our families, loved ones, and pets during this time of unpredictability.
That was something to celebrate.
While the front porch project was not an original idea, the simple concept was a chance to showcase community members in my Montana home.
I wanted to address the mental health impacts of the pandemic. I saw it as a chance to help change the narrative. Changing it from one of fear to one of focused appreciation of our relationships – a strength for so many during this time.
Best of all, I saw it as a conduit to raise money for the non-for-profits assisting the helpers in our community.
From the chaos, the Bozeman Front Porch Project was born.
Created as a little something to uplift the mood of our community while maintaining safety precautions photographing from afar.
An opportunity for families to contribute to a good cause and to create a small keepsake to remind them of the loving individuals that give their life meaning.
After all, family is everything and is worth celebrating right now!
It’s amazing to watch a good idea gain traction and grow into making a difference.
As a result, over the last five weekends I celebratED fifty-five families from afar while raising money for The Bozeman Area Community Foundation and the Greater Gallatin United Way. In total, we raised $2915.00!
Words can not express just how grateful I am to all the families that supported this fundraising project!
This pandemic has uprooted so much in our daily lives. Many have lost loved ones along the way, my grandmother included.
The struggle it seems is far from over.
I believe this time can also be viewed as a gift. It was a chance to show each one of us the healing, supportive power of our relationships.
If we choose to, we can refocus our attention on all the good things that we have to celebrate in our lives at this very moment.
This past Sunday evening, I was photographing my last family portrait of this project. The family happened to be my friends Sky and Tara. These two have spent their quarantine racing against the clock to finish their DIY home remodel. Their goal was to move in before the arrival of their first child due at the beginning of June.
I witnessed the excitement of a young couple on the cusp of starting their new family contrasted with the stressful demo chaos strewn about their front yard. It was a necessary step for the construction rebirth of the home they will raise their family in and it was also a hopeful conclusion to the Bozeman Front Porch Project.
Like Sky and Tara, each family I photographed were juggling a wide variety of emotions and personal challenges during this time.
I think the pandemic has shown all of us that in our shared, sheltered experience, we can foster personal connections and together begin to heal. For many, we’ve discovered a new appreciation for one another. This pandemic has shown us just how important our relationships really are in our lives.
There is great power in our relationships. They give us the space to laugh, to cry, to grieve, to experience our fears in a safe space, to celebrate, heal, and be accepted for who we are.
It’s a reaffirmation to know that we are loved, even when we are apart. To know that our loved ones have our backs.
Together, our relationships, nurtured with the foundations of love, will help each of us get through any trial life throws at us. That knowledge fills me with hope.
It was only fitting that I make one last family portrait for the Bozeman Front Porch Project conclusion – my Bozeman family.
My labrador Tippet has been my traveling companion on this journey with me from the start. Without her, this pandemic would have been a much more difficult and lonely road to navigate.
To my dog, I am grateful.
To my family and friends, I love you and I am grateful.
And for the generosity of the families in our Bozeman community, I am eternally grateful for your support throughout this project.
May all of us cherish this time of togetherness with the ones who matter most. Brighter days are ahead for all of us. When this storm passes, I’ll be here to help you celebrate your loved ones through candid, creative, storytelling photography. Thank you Bozeman! -M