The last three months have been probably the most challenging I have ever experienced as a professional photographer. It was after a month of the lockdown around mid April, I had been home schooling my three children and hadn’t left the house or picked up a camera in four weeks. I hadn’t wanted to,I was feeling as low as I had ever felt. I had always relied on my work and photography and I felt trapped and helpless. It was one of my friends Nicola Pink who had mentioned of an idea to photograph families on their front doorsteps. At this point during the lockdown everyone was the same as me stuck at home, nobody had seen family members and the only people out were key workers or those who could work. I wasn’t sure at first if it could work.
All the photographs would need for me to be at the front gate or on the roadside. I would have to rely on people looking out for me so when I arrive they would be waiting on their doorstep. At this point the virus was at its peak. I thought about it and wondered if I could make it work. I wanted to do something nice for all those families who were like me stuck at home and feeling lonely and isolated. So I advertised a post on my facebook page Gareth Jones Photographer offering to go out for free and photograph families on their doorsteps. They could share the images on social media with loved ones they haven’t seen. Well the response was amazing. Before I knew it I had lots of people getting in touch.
I then decided well if I was giving my time for free then why not raise some money for a local charity so I decided on Queenscourt Hospice plus the NHS. I set up a just giving page and so it began. I arranged 15 families to visit on the Friday and spent 5 hours travelling around Southport. It felt so good. It was brilliant meeting people who were so appreciative of what I was doing. People wanted to talk to me I was at every house for 20-30 minutes chatting from the front garden gate. Families commented I had made their day. Children looked forward to me coming, waited at the windows, mums put on make up. I got home that night, I felt exhausted but so proud. It then started to snowball. Radio Merseyside had been in touch. They wanted to me to speak live on the Monday morning with Tony Snell. Oh my word how nervous was I. Stood in my loft at 730am chatting live on the radio. This was me, I can talk for ever with a camera around my neck but live on the radio well thats a whole new ball game. I did it though. Then followed ITV, Paul Crone wanted to do an article about me for Granada Reports. We filmed that on the Monday morning to. Yes with my lockdown hair! I had joked only weeks before to my wife about my long hair she quipped, don’t worry nobody will see you! https://www.itv.com/news/granada/2020-04-21/southport-photographer-s-unique-way-of-keeping-families-close/
The money by now was flooding into my just giving page. I carried on for the next three weeks visiting families across Southport and beyond. I raised over £1720 something I have never done before for any charity. Once I had appeared on Radio and TV lots of photographers got in touch. I knew then it would catch on. By May hundreds of photographers around the country were doing doorstep photography some charging some doing it like me for charity. You know what if by me doing what I did should I have inspired others then that makes me feel good. The Liverpool Echo did an amazing article about me and I have to thank Cheryl Mullen for that. So thats my story on how such a simple idea really helped my mental health during the lockdown, possibly inspired others to do the same and more importantly made people smile when life was very hard indeed. It led to two housing companies in Together Housing and For Housing getting in touch to commission me to produce photography of tenants for them. That has led to wonderful publicity for them as well. https://www.insidehousing.co.uk/insight/photo-story-social-housing-tenants-in-lockdown-66614
It just goes to show no matter how small we can all make a difference.