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Pandemic photography project raises more than $10K for children’s hospice in Vancouver
VANCOUVER -- More than a month after a Vancouver photographer began taking pictures of people at their homes during the pandemic, she’s now about to wrap up the project after having more than doubled her fundraising goal for Canuck Place Children’s Hospice.
Laura-Lee Gerwing with My City Photos started taking the pictures from a safe distance in late March, after putting a pause on her usual photo shoots. She was inspired by the Massachusetts-based Front Steps Project, launched by photographers there as a charitable endeavour and a way to help people connect.
Her last day is May 2, and Gerwing said by then, she’ll have documented about 255 households around Metro Vancouver. As for her original fundraising goal of $5,000, as of Friday morning, the total raised was more than $10,000.
“It has grown massively and unexpectedly,” Gerwing said. “I’m so overjoyed and my mind is just blown with the generosity of our community.”
People who signed up for photos could donate whatever amount they wanted in exchange for Gerwing’s visit. Gerwing said donations ranged from $20 to an anonymous donation of $500.
She said ending the project comes with "mixed feelings" because although it’s been a lot of work, she will miss it.
“The project for me is all about community,” Gerwing said. “I feel very fortunate to have gotten to participate in this project so I could see people every day.”
Gerwing said some of the most memorable moments have involved people surprising her with costumes, musical instruments, and even camping gear set up in the yard to represent a cancelled trip. In some photos, people hold signs with messages of love for a family member who is working.
“I had this one mom yesterday, she’s like I’ve had this one big circle on my calendar and there’s nothing else. We’ve been so looking forward to this day,” Gerwing said.
She also had a man message her from Quebec saying she had taken a photo of his daughter, who is in Vancouver for school. He hadn’t realized she was being photographed for the project and came across the picture online.
“(He) and his wife just cried tears of joy, because it connected them together,” Gerwing said and added the couple also made a donation to the hospice.
South Surrey resident Nikki Scott and her family took part in Gerwing’s second to last day of the project. She also contacted other neighbours and friends in the area and connected them with Gerwing as well.
“I thought it was a really neat way of documenting what’s going on and sort of where each of our families are at this point,” Scott said. “I think all of this has just made us look at so many things differently, and I think getting a picture of that and just reminding ourselves you know, we’re OK without going out, we’re OK not being able to see everybody all the time, and we’re OK without the busy that we’re so used to.”
Gerwing is planning on turning the photos from the project into a book, and plans on contacting each family with a questionnaire about their pandemic experience.
“I want to know their story, and how this pandemic and this time has affected them,” she said. For her next project, she’s planning on highlighting local small businesses, and letting people know through her photography what’s open and how people can provide support.
“I really want to start bringing awareness to the small businesses, because those are being hit really hard right now, and as a small business owner, I get it,” she said.
Gerwing said she’s also planning on doing the front steps project again in the fall and at least once a year.
“A perfect family photo is amazing, but that’s not reality all the time, and I love that families realize that, and that they still want to document this historic time in their lives,” she said. “We’ve all been dealt a different hand and we just need to deal with it the best we can, and I’m so glad that this project has brought a little bit of sunshine into people’s lives.”