In a normal year, Neil Parry would be knee-deep in weddings and family portraits. But he is one of the many photographers whose livelihood was shut down with the governor’s stay-at-home mandate after the outbreak of COVID-19.
After a few weeks of being at home, the Lewes-based photographer launched a project in recognition of healthcare professionals working to save lives during the global pandemic.
“I spoke to some friends who work in ICU units about their experiences, and I was struck by the fact that while most of us had been asked to stay home, or work from home, or not work at all – these folks, like many other first responders and essential employees, had to do the exact opposite, and in some cases with an increased schedule, and at the risk of exposure to the virus,” Parry said.
After seeing stories on the Front Porch photo sessions occurring around the country, he was inspired to create his own project. “I wanted to photograph them at home, in some cases with family or loved ones, shining a light on the personal sacrifice they face,” Parry said.
Even with support in the community for the frontline medical personnel, in so many cases, these people remain relatively anonymous. The goal of this project is simply to recognize them, he said.
Parry enlisted the help of friends who work in ICU units and asked them to reach out to their colleagues to participate in the project. The Front Line Portrait Project Facebook page acts as a hub for photographs and information. “Once I posted some photographs of what I was working on, interest increased,” he said.
As the list of subjects grew past 50, he moved away from front porches and tried to find more unusual backgrounds around their homes. “I want to give them a face and a name, and offer an opportunity to recognize them as individuals in our community – siblings, parents, children, friends – as much as they are part of a healthcare team,” Parry said.
“I’m grateful they are there, and I find what they do to be very noble. It’s impossible to calculate the difference medical professionals are making all over the world today,” he said.
Ultimately, the project will be a fundraiser. He initially planned to host an exhibition of the portraits and raise money for an organization or cause. As it became clear that a gathering of that size wouldn’t be possible this year, he has moved on to other ideas, such as printing a book with the same purpose.
Those interested can contact Parry through the Front Line Portrait Project on Facebook.