How local photographer Emily Lester is using the Front Steps Project to help the community
The idea of artists helping the community usually makes people think of neighborhood murals, book signings at the local library, or maybe a street performance by the local pianist. Emily Lester is finding ways to help Chattanoogans though with her own form: photography.
Emily first got her feet wet in photography in high school when she helped co-edit the yearbook. This led her to eventually minor in photography while in college. While in her film photography class she had her first experience photographing in the community.
“One of our assignments was to go out and photograph people we didn’t know,” Emily said. “I was scared at first but also excited. I think this was where I fell in love with photographing people.”
For 10 years now Emily has been building her photography business. For nearly 6 years it was just a side business, but it just kept growing. Emily credits the positive feedback and word of mouth as big factors behind her success.
Emily thinks that one of her strengths is how she is able to attract easy going and laid back clients. She always tries to give them a positive experience and to have a friendly and welcoming presence.
“Any time that a client walks away saying I like you or that wasn’t so bad, is a huge win in my book,” Emily said.
The Front Steps Project is a photography project that was began by Boston photographer Cara Soulia in March 2020. The project consists of photoshoots on the front steps of people’s homes with the money made from the shoots being donated to organizations helping communities during the COVID-19 pandemic. Emily Lester had brought the project to Chattanooga.
For a month now, Emily has been taking photos of families in Chattanooga on their front steps as a way to keep telling stories despite quarantines. $50 from each shoot is donated to the Chattanooga Area Food Bank, which has seen a 30% increase in use due to COVID-19. So far, Emily has donated $3000 to them, the equivalent of 12,000 meals.
“I know what I’m doing is just a small piece of a much bigger picture, but I hope that it makes a difference for the Chattanooga community. I also hope that these photos bring a little joy for people in such a scary and uncertain time.”