During the time of a pandemic, one military neighborhood is taking small joys and making them big.
At Bethel off-base housing for Joint Base Langley-Eustis, parents are taking to the streets to spread happiness to families through photography and music.
Professional photographer Ashley Salas and her two friends, Brittany Martin and Kristine Walls, started a Front Porch Photography project in the neighborhood in March.
The project is a national movement where professional photographers travel an area and photograph families on their porches to capture them in silly or inspiring poses during this time of self isolation.
Salas said as soon as she heard about the project from a friend, she knew she had to do it.
“I couldn’t not do it,” she said. “In a military community, you always want to boost morale and everyone wants to give back.”
Salas reached out to the community through the housing’s Facebook page to see if families would be interested. Within just a few days, 76 families responded saying they wanted to take part in the project.
So, she and her friends set up a time to drive around the neighborhood and photograph the families however they wanted, she said. Some of them dressed in silly outfits and some of them just took the opportunity to have a professional photo taken.
“There wasn’t a goal in mind for what I was trying to capture,” she said. “I just wanted people to look forward to something and have it be totally free.”
Families posed with rolls of toilet paper and bottles of wine to show a silly side of their coronavirus isolation experience. Other families portrayed more serious aspects, holding signs that thanked health care workers and photos of their loved ones who were away.
Martin, who helped make an upbeat playlist and cheer on the families during the experience, said the work was moving and she was glad she took part in it. Even her own family posed for the photos, with Martin in a robe and her girls in their swim and dance gear. She said something as simple as posing for a funny photo helped raise her daughters’ spirits because they were able to have a little fun after learning they wouldn’t return to their school and see their friends for the rest of the year.
For Walls the experience captured something different.
Walls, who helped cheer on families during the photo shoot, said her family has been having a particularly tough time after learning her husband would no longer be able to return from active duty Air Force as soon as originally thought.
Her husband was set to return in a few weeks but because of the coronavirus, he won’t be home until June at the earliest, causing him to miss many more moments with his family, including his daughter’s 4th birthday.
So, during Walls’ photo shoot, her daughters stood with their “daddy dolls” and captured a time when they had to rally closer than ever before to make it through the pandemic.
Walls said during the experience, all three women realized what they were doing was something important and after photographing the families, the friends wept in the car — happy tears.
“The friendships you make in the military are so deep-rooted, it’s hard to explain,” Salas said. “The military community already sacrifices so much and these bonds are so strong.”
To view all of Salas’ photos, view the album on Facebook.