The Front Steps Project Captures a Covid Moment

Nicole Lem began taking photos locally and was thrilled with the response from residents.

November 24, 2020 | | Arts

Within a few weeks of the Covid shutdown in March, Mississauga photographer Nicole Lem was starting to get restless. Missing her work and her clients, she was feeling disconnected from the world. But then she got a call from her friend, Alice Keogh – and all that changed.

Candice and Rob MacPhee on their porch with sons Carter (left) and Finley. Photo by Nicole Lem.

Candice and Rob MacPhee on their porch with sons Carter (left) and Finley. Photo by Nicole Lem.

Alice encouraged Nicole to check out The Front Steps Project, a movement started in Massachusetts by photographers Kristen Collins and Cara Soulia. The project was an attempt to get neighbours out of the house and into some fresh air during a time of isolation. In lieu of a fee, the photographers asked residents to donate to a local charity. Within weeks the movement had spread to countries around the world, with more than 500 volunteer photographers participating.

Nicole knew the opportunity was exactly what she needed. She began taking photos locally and was thrilled with the response from residents. “They were so happy and so sweet,” she says. “They would call out from the porch laughing, ‘You gave me a reason to get dressed today.’”

It wasn’t long before Nicole’s friend Candice MacPhee found out about the project on social media and asked if Nicole would consider making her way to Candice’s home in Caledon. She made it worth Nicole’s time by contacting other area moms who were eager to participate.

Candice didn’t tell her husband, Rob, or their two boys – Finley was one at the time and Carter was nine – about the photo shoot until 15 minutes before Nicole arrived. “I wanted it to be natural,” she says. “It was such a great opportunity to document our experience of this time. I felt such gratitude that I could be home with my family. I didn’t know if I’d ever get that chance again to be a mom and a wife.”

Both Candice and Rob are fortunate to be able to work remotely, and she says she is cautiously optimistic about the current Covid situation: “We treat every day as a new day.” Looking back at the photo, she is glad her family could sit on the porch together and smile during such an uncertain time.

The Front Steps Project is now being released as a book (see, portraying how communities worldwide have found ways to connect during a time of isolation. Nicole’s photograph of the MacPhee family is included in the book. To date, the project has raised more than $3.35 million for international charities.

About the Author More by Johanna Bernhardt

Writer and dancer Johanna Bernhardt lives in Orangeville with her husband and two small children.

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