We grabbed a [virtual] coffee with Lee Geishecker, VagabondView Photography to learn more about the Cape Cod Front Steps Project.

1. What inspired you to embark on The Front Steps Project? How did it evolve?

The thought came to mind at the end of February 2020, when rumors of a quarantine (in response to the COVID-19 pandemic) started to percolate. I briefly thought of reaching out to clients who may find themselves at home and would like updated family portraits. I quickly dismissed the idea as everything started to spiral downwards, and quickly, as COVID-19 was running rampant worldwide.

Then a few weeks later, the Massachusetts lock down was announced, effective at noon on Tuesday March 24th. I found myself at home with my photography business at a standstill, my studio closed for at least two weeks, and the pity party was looming. I had heard of photographers in other states starting this movement called “Front Steps” where they went out and photographed families at their homes.

There were a few places throughout Mass. (Andover, Needham, Plymouth) that were jumping on the Front Steps bandwagon; I started to see different FB posts making reference to the movement. Then my friend Annie Hart Cool shared a post from one of those projects, calling me out to her 6,000 FB followers, with a simple statement “Lee, we should do this!”.  And I thought “Well, now we have to, don’t we?!?”

Annie and I spoke about how this would look, talking about the why, how, when, where. The first thing we discussed was the social responsibility of going to people’s homes and keeping a safe distance. I realized that if I used a long zoom lens (70-200mm) and stood far from the subjects and made the session brief, that people might be interested.

It would be more appealing to people if the “payment” was in the form of a donation. We realized that an organization that would be in great demand at this time when people were losing jobs was the Falmouth Service Center. The Service Center’s mission is to ease stress, reduce hunger and improve the quality of life for their neighbors in need. They had announced on that very day that their doors were closed to the general public but would continue providing meals to those in need. So I made the decision that I would not charge people for my services, but instead ask for a donation (the amount could be determined by the participant) to Falmouth Service Center.

I reached out to a client who had asked me if I thought we could pull off a family portrait since her husband was forced to work from home. We pulled off a quick session, from a great distance at their home. That was on March 26th. Once the family portrait that resulted from that session hit Facebook, the Cape Cod Front Steps Project was born. Annie took on the role of scheduler and I took on the role of photographer. The next day, we lined up 13 sessions. People were desperate for some good news, and the project took off like wildfire.

2. How long did you plan for the project to continue?

The original plan was to conduct the sessions for 2 weeks and I thought that if we could get 35-40 sessions with a donation to the Falmouth Service Center from each session, we could accomplish something.

As the quarantine continued, we set a deadline of April 30th;  this part of the project was considered the “Home Edition” and continued until May 3rd (due to weather constraints, we had to reschedule throughout the entire project).

Over the past 2 weeks, we’ve embarked on the “Business Edition” of Cape Cod Front Steps, enabling us to give a shout-out to local businesses that were finding creative ways to keep their business going and keep the local economy moving.

3. How has this effort been received on Cape? 

Again, the original plan was to conduct the sessions for 2 weeks with a target of 35-40 sessions. We ended up going 5 weeks with the Home Edition, with 240 sessions (almost 1000 people, 300+ dogs and 280 kids)!

We limited the geography to the Upper Cape and photographed in Bourne, Mashpee, Sandwich and (predominantly) Falmouth. To say that the effort was well received is an understatement.

People were raving about the goodwill that was happening and the fact that we gave people a reason to smile and forget about the craziness that was all-encompassing, even for just a few moments. People were telling me that our daily posts were something to look forward to, as they saw family and friends “stepping out” for a cause.

There were local and national press shout-outs to the project and the folks at the Falmouth Service Center were in disbelief as to the results of this effort.

4. Can you share one or two sessions that stick out in your mind and why?

Early on, I had received a message from a young woman who lives alone with her 2 dogs and is in a wheelchair. She wanted to show people the other side of the quarantine, that not everybody is stuck at home with their families. There are people in isolation and at risk and are scared beyond belief. We had an amazing conversation, from a distance, and her perspective and insight were so inspirational.

5. If you could leave everyone with one message for now, for the future, what would that be?

Another session that sticks out in my mind is that of a couple (she’s 72, he’s 84) and they were married last summer. She told me that the hardest part of all of this was that she couldn’t be with her grandchildren and that as each day went by, she felt the loss of seeing, hugging and kissing them. She also told me that she had stuffed backpacks at the Service Center when she was a teen and loved the idea of contributing to their cause. She also wanted to show her family and friends that they were just fine!

Just because we couldn’t be together with loved ones, doesn’t mean we couldn’t get together (virtually) to make a difference. Years from now, the Cape Cod Front Steps’ portraits will show that me made it through all of this together! And as one participant stated, “I’d like to think that when all of this is over, that we realize the time we’ve spent was time well spent”. Well said!

A huge thank you to Lee and to Annie for embarking on an effort that has truly brightened the lives of so many. If you haven’t already, check out, like, and share from VagabondView photography’s Facebook page.