I’ve been thinking back on the experiences I’ve had during the last five weeks of the Bozeman Front Porch Project, I find myself overcome with absolute gratitude.
Through the unwavering support of my Bozeman community, the project has been a huge success!
Still, there has been so much to process personally and collectively as a member of my community.
While the world and my photography business was forced into a holding pattern due to state COVID-19 stay-in-place directives, I saw a lot of uncertainty and fear with all the drastic, fast-moving changes that we were experiencing as a community and nation.
Along with the uncertainty of 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 the week before stay-in-place directives kicked in. It was during that time, I came across some favorite family photos that I had made of her throughout the years.
With the end of her life nearing, those photos had suddenly become priceless, captured memories that brought up so many wonderful emotions of love.
How many of us have made excuses over the years to put off making the time to be present with our families and to celebrate them now in this stage of life through photography?
I think we’ve all be guilty of it.
Yet once those loved ones are gone (or government-mandated stay-in-place separates us, we would do anything to be back in their presence to 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.
In this time of social distancing and uncertainty, I wanted to be a remedy.
It was around the time that we admitted my grandma into hospice that 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, we also get 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, I viewed the simple concept (that started on the East Coast) as a local opportunity.
An opportunity to address the mental health impacts of the pandemic, a chance to help change the narrative 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 possible 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.
A chance 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, I’ve spent the last five weekends celebrating fifty-five families throughout Bozeman 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 and many have lost loved ones along the way, my grandmother included.
The struggle it seems is far from over.
But this time can also be viewed as a gift – showing each one of us the healing, supportive power of our relationships.
If we choose to, it’s a chance to refocus our attention on all the good things that we have to celebrate in our lives at this very moment.
As the sun set upon Bridger Canyon Drive this past Sunday evening, I was wrapping up the last family portrait of this project. The family happened to be my friends Sky and Tara who have been spending their social distancing racing against-the-clock to finish their DIY home remodel and move back in before the arrival of their first child due at the beginning of June.
Of all the families I have photographed out front of their homes these past weeks, I thought this final contrasting scene – the excitement of a young couple in love and on the cusp of starting their new family contrasted with the stressful chaos strewn about their front yard, (a necessary step for the construction rebirth of their home they will raise their family in) – was a hopeful conclusion to the Bozeman Front Porch Project.
Like them, and each family I photographed we have all been juggling a wide variety of emotions and personal challenges depending upon our circumstances.
I think this situation has shown all of us that in our shared, sheltered experience, we can foster personal connections and together begin to heal our community. 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.
The power of our relationships gives us the space to laugh, to cry, to grieve, to experience our fears in a safe space, to celebrate, to heal, and to be accepted for who we are.
A reaffirmation to know that we are loved even when we are apart and 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 – 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, 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 and when this storm passes, I’ll be here to help you celebrate your loved ones through candid, creative, storytelling photography. Thank you Bozeman! -M