Alexandria photographer Billy Sabatini had no idea how popular his Front Steps Project would be, and over the last several weeks he’s ended up taking photos of more than 150 families and sequestered individuals in front of their homes.
“I thought it’d be kind of a fun, small thing and maybe get a handful of people to participate,” Sabatini told ALXnow. “I started taking photos of friends and neighbors, and after about a week-and-a-half word of mouth spread and it just took off. I’ve now got 100+ families on my list and my plan is to take pictures of them all.”
Sabatini, who has lived in Alexandria for 20 years, will leave the comfort of his wife and two daughters to go take pictures on weekends and after 4 p.m. — just when the light is right for taking pictures. He’ll drive to the street where he’s supposed to take pictures and then text the family. Once in front of the house, he will greet everyone at a distance (while wearing a cloth face mask) and then quickly take their portrait with a Nikon D50 and a 70-200mm telephoto lens.
“Everyone has been tremendously friendly and upbeat,” he said. “It warms your heart to see this in your community, and it’s been rewarding because I get to meet all these new people that I’d never probably would have met otherwise.”
One woman he photographed was so happy to interact with another human being after being isolated that she walked out of her house to meet him and extended her hand for a handshake. She then realized what she was doing and told him that she was simply excited to interact with another person, he said.
Incidentally, at 6 p.m. today, the Del Ray community will have a front porch party for its first monthly Thursday celebration.
“I found that people really are appreciative of this effort, because I think they think it really brings a sense of community,” Sabatini said. “It really kind of captures the time when everyone is together, and it’s not something we’ll hopefully ever experience again. It’s a really unique time. And for some people, maybe, it’s been really difficult. And maybe for some it’s been really good to have all of their family together at this moment in time.”