We may be living with a new normal these days, but this hopeful photo series shows that life is not canceled for families.

By Melissa Mills
May 06, 2020
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Credit: Nadia Leon

Stuck indoors or at least six feet apart, hours of virtual learning while Mom and Dad also try to work, health care workers risking their lives to save the rest of us, remembering a mask every time you leave the house, and an endless news cycle reminding us that the coronavirus has spread and getting back to "normal" will come in waves—this is life during the COVID-19 crisis. But just because things look a little different doesn't mean that families are not still living or even enjoying their time together.

That's exactly what Sunnyside, New York photographer Nadia Leon hopes to convey with her Front Steps Project. Life is not canceled due to the pandemic, it's just a little different these days. For Leon, who's also a mom to a 3-year-old son, spring is usually packed with weddings and family shoots. This year, however, she found herself in need of a creative outlet due to a clear schedule and reorganizing her closet just wasn't cutting it. That's why, about five weeks ago, she began "shooting local families as they keep their heads above water."

Capturing families in Queens, New York (including Parents.com executive editor Julia Dennison and her daughter), an epicenter for COVID-19 infection, Leon's photo series serves as a reminder that amid all the darkness and scariness, families are surviving and making the best of things.

"I felt like we needed some levity in this situation," says Leon, "and a safe, distant photo shoot is a great reason to dress up [and] hug your babies on camera! These snapshots will be invaluable when looking back on this time years from now."

Taking the photos from a distance while wearing a mask was a first for Leon—not to mention a little difficult to "convey emotion with your face covered"—but she hopes that the strange scenario will bring a smile to viewers' faces and will serve as a "visual keepsake of their life through the pandemic." Through these uncertain times, it's important to shine a light on some of the silver linings of this situation: more quality time as a family, health, and finding joy in the little things—a sunny day or grocery shelves stocked with toilet paper, for instance—you might have previously taken for granted.

Credit: Nadia Leon

Leon's taking the photo project one step further now and raising money for local food pantries, which are struggling as demands have surged. In exchange for a photo shoot, all she asks is for families to make a donation to a pantry in need—her pick is the Mosaic Community Center, also in Queens.

Credit: Nadia Leon

"It seemed only natural for the project to grow beyond me," she says. "I recognize that our family is lucky and, for now, we do not have to worry about food. Other families who lost their incomes depend on local food pantries for survival."

Helping others in need and walking away with photos that capture this crazy moment in time? Priceless.

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