What I’ve learned from doing front door photos during lockdown

The camera gave me an excuse to be somewhere I didn’t belong. It was my ticket to getting out the house and talking to people – safely.Charlotte Broster: the Eversley Front Door Project

I had the idea for the Front Door Project before the world shut down, when lockdown was looming on the horizon and everything was unknown and unsettling. I hadn’t been influenced by anyone or anything, I dreamed it up when I was out for a jog. (I get all my best ideas when out for a jog. Sometimes I wish I could jog and scribble in a notepad at the same time but, alas, it’s impossible)

The #eversleyfrontdoorproject was intended to capture a moment in history, but also serve as a community project, giving something back to the people who live in my village. It felt like a constructive and responsible way of using my photography skills, and I hoped the images would convey hope and positivity and as a result, boost morale.

I took my first ‘door-trait’ on the 22nd March and it was only after I’d snapped a households, I realised the project could be pushed further. I decided to link it to Refuge, the charity helping victims of domestic abuse. When the schools shut, I’d been troubled by the notion of children not having a safe place to go to. 44 households later, I’ve raised £1,000 for this vital cause.

front door photo lockdown

I admit, it had a selfish motive too. I’m rubbish if I don’t have purpose and meaning, so I put my camera around my neck and set off to find it. Really, the camera gave me an excuse to be somewhere I didn’t belong. It was my ticket to getting out the house and talking to people. I knocked on people’s doors and nobody questioned it. It’s been a hugely therapeutic and rewarding outlet for me. I dabbled in journalism before I was a photographer, working for local newspapers, and there’s something about finding things out about people which really drives me.

Two months later and I’m reflecting on what I’ve learned from all these people I’ve met and all these photographs I’ve taken.   

front door photos lockdown

We’re resilient and adaptable.

Every single person answered that front door with a smile on their face, no matter what they’re circumstances were. I didn’t hear a single grumble from anybody despite these strange and unsettling circumstances. It was inspiring.

We need to talk.

Human beings need to see other human beings – properly, face to face, in the flesh! Technology has made communication so much easier for us all, but it’s the chit-chat that revives and inspires us. I’ve lost count of the times I’ve left the house, uttering “Darling, I won’t be long, just going to take a quick walk and photo, I’ll be back in twenty minutes, keep an eye on the kids please…” and an hour later, made it back home looking a little sheepish. Oops! The conversations I had with people recharged me. The laughter I shared restored my faith in the world and made me feel that this is all going to be OK.  

front door photos lockdown

People still value professional photography.

I got a huge sense of how important is was for people to, not only have a decent photograph of themselves but, have a decent photograph taken at a memorable time in their lives. People are appreciative and excited, so that makes it all so worthwhile. Great to see that Smart phones haven’t taken over completely!

You have to click with people, not just click the button!

Every good photographer knows this, and my business is built on this vital fact. The project was further proof of how important it is to connect with your subject – and I did! I was reassuring and interested in what they had to say. I needed them to trust me, like me, and open up to me. I gave each little shoot all my time, energy and attention. If they didn’t get a good vibe from me, there was absolutely no point taking their photograph.

front door photos lockdown

Be bold.

When I planned this project, I had my hesitations. What if nobody wanted to take part? What if the positivity was inappropriate? What if, what if, what if? The writer and photographer Levison Wood once told me, “It pays to be bold” and I try hard to live my life with that advice in mind. Getting out of your comfort zone is the only way to discover new things about yourself and ultimately, get better at what you do.

Everyone has a story.

There was a mum who’d recently had her fourth baby, reflecting on her experience giving birth in strange times. A nurse proudly putting on her uniform for her front door photo. A psychotherapist working hard to support NHS workers. Teachers who had adapted incredibly. A single mum on furlough. A GP who’d missed the London marathon. A little boy who didn’t understand why he couldn’t play with the boy-next-door. A lovely little girl having a tantrum just as I pressed click. Numerous grandmothers missing their grandchildren. I loved finding out how everyone was making the best of their challenging circumstances.

new baby lockdown
new baby lockdown

I love where I live.

Last, but not least, I’ve realised just what a vibrant, positive and interesting community I have on my doorstep. My family are dotted all over the country, so having a supportive network around me is so important. I feel very fortunate and definitely not planning to move any time soon.

If you contributed to the project, then a BIG thank you. My idea would have been a flop if there weren’t people like YOU who look on the bright side of life. This has been a difficult time but blimey, haven’t we learned things – about ourselves, our partners, our children, our friendships, our work, our community and our country.

key workers lockdown

I’ve realised just what a vibrant, positive and interesting community I have on my doorstep.Charlotte Broster: the Eversley Front Door Project

Feedback from the community:

“Lovely idea to do something positive in such a horrible time.”

“I can see your project has been putting a smile on people’s faces during this difficult time.”

“Good to see how lockdown is bringing families closer together, really encouraging.”

“Well done, fantastic project. Thinking of all those who aren’t fortunate enough to feel safe in their place of isolation.”

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