By Elizabeth F. McNamara

Sara Zarrella is the first to admit she borrowed the “Front Steps RI” idea from a photographer in Massachusetts who conceived of a “Front Steps Project” there. The idea was so simple and beautiful – take photos of families on their front steps and in return the families would support a charity – Zarrella decided to adapt it to Rhode Island. Only she added the idea of having the families “pay” for the photo shoot by purchasing a gift card for a favorite small local business or two.

So, on Saturday, March 21, she posted about “Front Steps RI” on her Facebook page, asking for interested families to respond. Within three hours, a whopping 350 families said they wanted to participate.

Zarrella was overwhelmed.

“I was trying to push for small businesses. Most small businesses were shut down instantly, including me,” she said. Zarrella specializes in portraits and weddings. “I just wanted to create hope and awareness in the community, some sense of positivity and hope.” 

But 350 portraits? She was going to need help. 

She reached out to colleagues and ended up with nine other photographers – they divvied up the families and the giant shoot was on. No fancy hairdos, no fancy clothes. Just families, as they were, in front of their houses. In return for buying a gift card to a local business, the families got digital copies of a few different professional shots. It took about a week to get all the photos done.* When all was said and done, families bought gift cards to well over 60 local businesses, most in East Greenwich. In total, the Front Steps RI project raised a total of $25,000 for local businesses.

For Zarrella, it felt great.

“One of the reasons I wanted to support small businesses was because I knew exactly what it was like. As a wedding and portrait photographer, I shut down before many other businesses.”

But, she added, there was a side benefit. 

In this time of fear and uncertainty, she said, “It was nice to see families together. It was really unique and special to see them and to talk to people. There’s still life and there’s still hope.” 

The project is now over but here are the other photographers who participated:

Sara Zarrella Photography

Katie Lovaas Photography
Teresa Sweet Photography
Classic Beauty Photography
Sabrina Scolari Photography
Hillary Block Photography
JL Photography
Piper Brown Photography
Massart Photography
Lisa Freshette Photography

* Even though the pictures look “close up,” all the photographers maintained at least a 6 foot distance, usually more, relying on zoom lens to get that close-up feel. Find out more about her work HERE