By Joseph Pelan
A photographer has helped to raise more than £5,000 by capturing portraits of families outside their homes during the lockdown to raise awareness of domestic abuse in Northern Ireland.
The nationwide lockdown on March 23 this year meant Larne-based wedding and portrait photographer, Caroline Smyth, like many other freelancers, found her work schedule was empty overnight.
Yet another more malevolent implication of lockdown was that vulnerable women and their families would not be safe at home but instead left in a volatile situation, locked up with their potential abusers.
Caroline’s mother volunteered with Women’s Aid in the 1980s and it was this that inspired her to take photographs of families outside their homes to raise awareness and funds for Women’s Aid, who, along with other charities, have had their ability to fundraise severely restricted due to the lockdown.
“I remember our home being a safe haven for women. They would come in with black eyes and makeup, and as a child I always remembered that,” said Caroline, about the inspiration behind the Front Door Project.
Initially beginning the project on her own, Caroline was soon joined by other photographers who wanted to offer their skills to help the project, including her own daughter Becca McIlroy.
“When my mum announced the free family sessions to raise money for charity, I was really excited. I’ve worked alongside my mum since my early teenage years and now that I have my own photography business I wanted to join in,” said Becca.
“Unfortunately we are not isolating in the same household but this meant we were able to cover different areas of the town, mine being more rural.
“It’s an excellent way to lift the community spirit and meet some neighbours along the way. I’m lucky in that I’m isolating in a household where I feel completely safe but others are not just as lucky.”
Caroline believes the project is not only raising awareness but is also documenting social history reminiscent of the black and white wartime photography of her own grandparents, and that it will have a lasting legacy for generations to come.
Photographers taking part in the Front Door Project include Tracey Steele Photography; Argyll Images; Warren Blair Photography; Loreen Katherine Photography; Becca McIlroy Photography; Jennifer Nicole Photography; and Lisa Larkham Photography.
• To find out more information about your local Women’s Aid group, go to: https://www.womensaidni.org/get-help/local-groups/