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Photographers taking 'doorstep portraits' capture candid picture of life in lockdown from Kent's towns and villages

Photographers across Kent are taking candid shots of households on their doorsteps in a bid to document precious family memories and drum up funds for the NHS.

The industry was among those hardest hit by the lockdown restrictions as studios, weddings and other public places were all deemed out of bounds.

Couple Charlie and Lauren Moore in Snodland Photo: Strawberry Photography
Couple Charlie and Lauren Moore in Snodland Photo: Strawberry Photography

But now so-called "doorstep photoshoots" are providing families with the chance to capture some priceless memories during these difficult times.

It has also afforded snappers a safe space in which to engage with clients and neighbours while also bringing in some much needed cash for their businesses and the health service.

New mum Sarah Hunt is currently running her business Strawberry Photography from her home in Snodland.

The 32-year-old usually focusses on weddings but as these have all now been rescheduled until next year the doorstep project has been providing a new outlet in-between caring for her three month old daughter Margot.

Each session is conducted outside and in line with government guidelines on the two metre distance, although in reality Sarah says its closer to four or five metres because of the quality of her camera lens.

Tony Legg and Jane Pullinger-Legg who is a nurse assessor in the NHS Photo: Strawberry Photography
Tony Legg and Jane Pullinger-Legg who is a nurse assessor in the NHS Photo: Strawberry Photography

"It was a little bit slow at first. I think people couldn't quite grasp the idea of how it worked," she said.

Work soon began to pick up and Sarah has been booked in for various sessions around Snodland which she times around her baby's feeds.

"These have been a lot of fun and gone down really well," she said. "My approach is very relaxed and informal which enables me to create real and candid photos."

"I was doing virtual shoots and these were okay but they are just not the same as getting out and taking photos".

Sarah has snapped everyone from a funeral director to a nurse assessor and her pet pooches.

But a group she has taken shots of regularly is mums-to-be and includes one expecting mum who found out she was pregnant just days before going into lockdown.

Funeral director Gray Reigate, pictured with wife Zoe, daughter Molly and Boris the boxer Photo: Strawberry Photography
Funeral director Gray Reigate, pictured with wife Zoe, daughter Molly and Boris the boxer Photo: Strawberry Photography

She said: "As well as family photoshoots, I have also photographed mums to be which has been so great as many of them have been in lockdown since the start of their pregnancies, so this has been a lovely way for them to show off their bumps.

"Otherwise there is going to be people being like 'oh my god' you're pregnant.

"Adapting my business to be able to create these images for people in these unprecedented times has been extremely rewarding – It's also great to just get back out there with my camera."

Payment is collected through contactless means and £5 from every shoot is donated to the NHS.

Sarah is also part of a team of Kent wedding suppliers who are putting on a wedding worth £35,000 for one lucky NHS worker.

The competition is the brainchild of Lou Finn, owner of Ashford-based Bake To The Future who has brought together 52 suppliers to donate their services for free.

The Champion family photo: Estelle Thompson Photography
The Champion family photo: Estelle Thompson Photography

Everything from the venue, toast master, entertainment to the dress is covered – NHS workers can find our more information on how to enter here.

Another photographer who has been doing her part for the NHS is Sevenoaks-based Estelle Thompson.

The 46-year-old has been capturing a frank snapshot of what lockdown life has been like in the small village of Fawkham in Longfield.

Estelle's calendar would usually be booked up with weddings and baby shoots at this time.

But when the Coronavirus struck her business Estelle Photography ground to a halt and as a self-employed worker says she did not qualify for government relief.

She wrote on her blog: "My heart broke every time a bride contacted me to discuss new dates for a wedding that was long awaited and now would be pushed back further."

Scarlett and Harry used the photos to wish their nanny a happy birthday, as they couldn't be with her. Photo: Estelle Thompson Photography
Scarlett and Harry used the photos to wish their nanny a happy birthday, as they couldn't be with her. Photo: Estelle Thompson Photography

The snapper filled her time taking shots of her dogs and birds on the garden feeder but said nothing could match up to the joy of "capturing the personalities and cheeky smiles" of people.

"We are never photographers because it pays the bills, we are photographers because we love it," she said.

Estelle noticed people talking about a project in America called "Doorstep portraits" and decided to emulate it in her own tiny village by posting on the Fawkham community Facebook page.

The response was simply overwhelming, she says, with so many people wanting to be photographed – mostly to document what the current time is like for their children.

It was this which was to serve as her main motivator throughout the period, she adds "for those kids to be able to turn around to their own kids and show them this is what it was like".

In return Estelle asked villagers for a £10 pledge to the NHS and has now amassed more than £500 thanks to various generous donations.

Adele Barker is the new priest-in-charge at Saint Marys Photo: Estelle Thompson Photography
Adele Barker is the new priest-in-charge at Saint Marys Photo: Estelle Thompson Photography

She said: "So, I had photographed the village, the people that live here, the rocks and the rainbows.

"It is kind of my gift, to the village that I love, where both my home and my business is."

She recalls how even her husband became a hero in the village after dressing up as a Tyrannosaurus Rex and surprising a three year-old boy from afar while having his birthday party in lockdown.

The photographer says the idea has since "spiralled" into a time capsule, with her being asked to bury a USB containing some of the doorstep portraits.

She even snapped the new priest Adele Barker who arrived at the local church St Marys in Longfield not long before lockdown.

"So much has changed," she said. "If you look back now the first photo had daffodils, now there is blue bells."

Estelle's husband dressed up as a dinosaur to celebrate neighbour Josh who was celebrating his third birthday in lockdown Photo: Estelle Thompson Photography
Estelle's husband dressed up as a dinosaur to celebrate neighbour Josh who was celebrating his third birthday in lockdown Photo: Estelle Thompson Photography

But even though she misses her family and friends Estelle says she is incredibly grateful for her village neighbours.

She added: "The community during this time has just been incredible –to have their experience to document."

Elsewhere, a couple in Iwade, near Sittingbourne adapted their photography business to offer doorstep souvenir shots during the VE Day celebrations.

David and Jemma Rannard of Click:Create Rannard's Photography and Design have been offering to take family portraits outside homes but also to record important events during lockdown.

David said: "The family photos have really taken off. It is a way for people to keep in touch during these terrible times.

"When we realised people were making the effort to stage VE Day parties at home we thought it could be a natural extension of what we do."

David and Jemma Rannard and daughter Eva of Click:Create at Iwade offering VE Day photos on your doorstep
David and Jemma Rannard and daughter Eva of Click:Create at Iwade offering VE Day photos on your doorstep

Wife Jemma, a graphic designer, is usually on hand and the couple now have an apprentice in the shape of their nine-year-old daughter Eva.

The couple charge £20 for a 10-minute photo shoot and donate £5 to the NHS.

Its a emotional pledge for the family who sadly lost a friend to Covid-19.

And while offers of work are now coming in from different parts of the county the couple say they are having to decline them.

He explained: "It really only started as a bit of a service to villagers in Iwade where we live. We have done a few in Sittingbourne but I didn't think it was right for us to travel too far.

"It really angers me when people don't take this situation seriously and ignore the advice we are being given. The more we all sacrifice now, the quicker it will be over."

Read more: All the latest news from Kent


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