15 photographers from CT participated in the Front Steps Project

In the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, local photographers panned out across Connecticut and around the world to take photos of families on their front stoop or in yards, the money going to charity.

Some of those photos have now been chosen for inclusion in a book commemorating the global Front Steps Project, which started in Needham, Mass., and evolved into a global undertaking that raised $3.5 million.

Four photographers from New Canaan are among the 15 from Connecticut who had work chosen for the compilation. Joining Andrea Chalon, Andrea Ceraso, Christina Saburro and Meghan Murphy Gould of New Canaan are Andrew Stanbrick and Christine Brennan of West Hartford, Katherine Calderwood and Mary Wade of Darien, Ashley Rutledge of Berlin, Cindy Ringer of Madison, Danielle Coleman of Old Greenwich, Leslie Massaro of Windsor, Rob Faber of Suffield, Ryan Finnegan of Putnam and Xenia Gross of Wilton.

“It was a pretty huge undertaking,” said Cara Soulia of Needham, founder of the Front Steps Project. “There were hundreds of photographers from all over the world who participated. We chose a couple hundred of the book. There was a limit on pages.”

The book comes in at 240 pages. Proceeds are going to the United Way, Soulia said.

“It wasn’t an exact science,” Soulia said. “We never published a book before. We did the best we could.”

First, Soulia said, she reached out to people she had been in touch with. “Low-hanging fruit,” she called it.

Next, “We reached out to people who raised a lot of money. If you raised a lot of money you had taken a lot of pictures.”

The New Canaan Front Steps effort, which started in the New Canaan Moms Facebook group, raised $37,000, which was funneled to the New Canaan Community Foundation. Globally, New Canaan finished in the top 10 groups in terms of raising funds.

“They were pretty amazing to watch,” Soulia said. “We didn’t know them before this.”

“They were pretty amazing to watch,” said Cara Soulia, who started the project in Needham, Mass. “We didn’t know them before this.”

When the photographers in Needham started taking photos, the local media took notice.

“I actually had a friend who called me and said, ‘You have to check this out. I saw this on the news,’” Chalon recalled

“At that time we were all sitting here frozen,” she said. “We were scared, not knowing what was going on.”

Within days, Chalon said, Gould posted on New Canaan Moms to recruit photographers for the local effort. As the broader project took shape, Gould told Chalon to reach out to some of her clients who might be interested in having a socially distant photo shoot.

“I ended up doing 85 sessions,” Chalon said.

“Every photographer’s style really resounded in their Front Steps pictures,” Gould said. “First of all, it was just amazing to see people in those first days of spring, when things were really dire.”

At that time, Gould said families were looking for a chance to dress up, to have a photo of the historic time they were living in, and photographers were out of work.

“I wanted to participate when I heard about it, help the community and bring about some joy in crazy times,” Ceraso said. “But it was also great for me to get out of the house and work again and meet some of the great families around town.”

“One family I have a photo has of horses in it,” Ceraso said. “There’s a family with little kids in pajamas with stuffed animals. Lots of pets, for sure. It was just really sweet to see the families at home. It gave the families something to dress up for after not leaving home for so long.”

The project spread from families on their front steps or in the yard to people doing business.

Ceraso wanted to involve first responders, and contacted her friend, firefighter Mike Jackson. A photo of Jackson and his shift in front of the firehouse is in The Front Steps Project book.

“This just kind of evolved so organically, and it felt so right,” Chalon said, “and that was the beauty of it.”

For more information about the book, visit thefrontstepsproject.com.