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April 24, 2020

Lessons Learned from Capturing Porchraits during Covid-19

Our lives have been turned upside down. We watched helplessly, as Covid-19 made its way to Canada, bringing with it: illness, death, uncertainty, job loss, businesses closing their doors, charities facing loss of funding and donations, economic disaster, to name a few of the devastating blows to our country. With it, a whole new way of living has emerged. Gone is the ability to gather with friends and family, to attend events, for our children to go to school and socialize with their friends, to grocery shop with ease, to travel and vacation, to give a friend or family member a hug. Our frontline workers are stretched to the limit. Fear and uncertainty, have become common place and mental health issues are increasing.

How do I face all this change, uncertainty and fear?

For myself, the Serenity Prayer has gotten me through many dark times in my life. Sadly, we are unable to change the chaos covid has brought. Accepting what is, is paramount for your well-being. Courage to change the things I can, looks different for everyone. For me, it’s about how I show up, I can choose fear or love. I choose love, and love to me looks like: being positive, finding ways to make a difference, focus on the good.

That’s where Porchraits by Lee comes in.

What started as a few porchrait sessions for friends and neighbours, quickly became a whirlwind 19 days of tremendous, exhilarating highs and devastating lows. In lieu of payment, clients donated a total of $4,530 to Made by Momma, who work tirelessly to support families with young children in Calgary facing adversity or crisis.

The Lessons I Learned

Pain is Pain.

“Covid doesn’t discriminate based on race, colour, age, gender, sexual orientation, income tax bracket, or religious beliefs.” ~ Shauna Baty

Having met so many different people, facing different challenges, it was clearly evident, that no matter what their circumstances, pain is pain. Don’t assume that because someone seemingly has it all, that they don’t suffer.

One family whose home was in an affluent area, were stressed that they may lose it all – both losing their high-level jobs, they were uncertain how they were going to keep up with their mortgage payments.

On the other hand, one lovely young single Mom, shared with me that she was a full-time student, just lost her part time job and was struggling to home-school her two young children while trying to continue with her own studies.

My heart was deeply touched by a young family with a child who suffers from mental illness. I was quick to pick up on cues from this sweet, timid, frightened little boy and saw he was wearing an Avengers shirt. Letting him know that Captain America was my favorite Avenger he relaxed a little and we were able to capture some gorgeous images.

A single woman, living alone in a basement suite, ached to be able to see her elderly father in person. As I captured her porchrait with her preciously holding a photo of her father in her hands, tears welled up. I returned to my vehicle and cried the entire way to my next session.

Finding Joy Amidst Covid

Almost every single session I captured, resulted in exhilarating joy. Children would happily exclaim, “this is the first time I’ve been out of my pjs for a month!” Tired parents would share with deep gratitude, “thank you, it’s so nice to see another adult.” Retired couples and single adults would express gratitude and joy for life and love.

It was so refreshing and needed, for me to see, feel and embrace this joy. It was infectious!

Creativity

There were some families who went all out with creativity. They inspired me and brought me so much joy.

My creativity was also sparked. As a passionate amateur wildlife and landscape photographer, I learned how to be creative with portraiture and posing, as well as editing with help from my friend Katherine Tam Photography

“The Haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate, hate.” ~ Taylor Swift

“If you don’t stop doing porchraits I’ll find someone to track you down and kill you.” A real threat I received from an out of province photographer (yes it was reported). Shaming. Judging.

The Professional Photographers of Canada based out of Ontario, sent out a press release on April 8th, “PPOC recommends that these Front Porch type of sessions do not take place at this critical time.” This sparked a wave of further shaming, judgments and division amongst the photography community. For me it created a whole new level of angst on top of the threats, shaming and judging I was already receiving. It’s sad that a private organization, felt the need to go above federal and local governments and authorities, in turn causing more confusion and division.

Resilience and Hope

The resilience of the human spirit is palpable. Health care workers. Grocery clerks. Janitors. Entrepreneurs. Covid survivors. Caretakers. People self-isolated. Just a few of the many people showing up every day with courage and resilience. I hope to continue bringing you real life stories of everyday people finding Hope Amidst Covid.

Self-Care

Many people have said: I am bored. I have so much time now. What do I do with all this time? I can honestly say over the course of the 19 days I did the Porchrait sessions, I tried everything to take time out for myself and my family. With the volume of sessions and the increasing pressure of hurtful comments, my physical and emotional health was indeed strained. Recognizing this, I made a commitment to take five days off over Easter, and made the difficult decision to bring Porchraits by Lee to a close on April 17th. I’ve learned time and time again, self-care is of utmost importance. Your mind, body, soul and the people you love need it and count on it.

Gratitude

Although life right now is scary and filled with unknowns, there is so much to be grateful for: life, family, friends who check in to make sure you’re ok, opportunity to de-clutter and organize, available food and water, time to be with and in nature, health care, organizations like Made by Momma, Distress Centre, Alberta Government and many others providing service and information for Calgarians.

Personally, I am deeply grateful to my husband and daughters. How blessed I am for their love and how they always support me in my creative ventures, spontaneous ideas and my need to have personal time and space.

Choose Love

Please, if you ever consider writing, tweeting, posting, saying or sharing something hateful, judging or shaming, I kindly and respectfully ask, that you stop for a moment and ask yourself honestly, ‘is this coming from fear/hate or love?’

I sincerely hope you choose LOVE.

“We are all in this together.” ~ Dr. Deena Hinshaw

“Be calm. Be Kind. Be Safe.” ~ Dr. Bonnie Henry

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