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Coronavirus: Our doorstep diaries... A snapshot of ordinary families who are living in an extraordinary time

Local photographer Sasha Treanor tells Stephanie Bell how she has now turned her daily walk into an opportunity to capture history in the making

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Life through a lens: Sasha Treanor

Life through a lens: Sasha Treanor

Gary’s father Norman who lives with them

Gary’s father Norman who lives with them

Life through a lens: Sasha Treanor

We are living through extraordinary times as the coronavirus pandemic impacts hugely on people across Northern Ireland.

Families are in lockdown, with some parents finding their job has been paused while others are adapting to working from home. On top of that many mums and dads are having to tackle home schooling.

In addition each day brings yet more worrying news of the crisis as the death toll mounts and more people are infected.

Little wonder then that a Co Armagh photographer's novel idea to offer families a snapshot of themselves during this historic moment in time should be proving so popular.

Mum-of-one Sasha Treanor has launched 'Doorstep Diaries' for people in her local neighbourhood in Portadown and has been amazed by the response.

More used to taking pictures of newborn babies or families in her home studio, Sasha is bringing her camera with her on her daily walk to photograph families on their doorsteps.

It was an idea she came across online where it was launched in America by a group of photographers seeking to continue to make an income.

However, unlike the US photographers, Sasha (26), who is married to Mark Madill (36), a workshop controller for a car company and mum to Libby (2), is not charging for the service.

And she says there has been no shortage of people wanting to have their pictures recorded on their doorstep for posterity.

"I am self-employed and I wanted something to focus on while at home now that I've finished editing the pictures I'd taken before the lockdown," she says.

"I had nothing new to share on my Facebook page and I thought this would be uplifting for the locals and followers.

"I was inspired by other photographers, especially the ones in the USA who were doing the 'Frontdoor Project', driving around to friends and family or booking sessions from the footpath.

"I thought I could do the same for free to give back to my local community and spread some joy."

Sasha lives in Scotch Street, which is on the Moy Road in Portadown, where there are two main developments she walks around during her daily exercise.

She took some pictures of family and friends which she posted on social media last Thursday, inviting others wanting a doorstep picture to get in touch.

"I was delighted when strangers messaged me and said they thought it was a brilliant idea," she says. "Strict social distancing is observed, I arrange to stop by five to seven homes on my daily walk and message when I'm outside so they can come to the door, contact-free.

"I spend five minutes taking a variety of shots and these are available for people to keep free of charge and a selection is shared on my blog/social media.

"I have photographed around 20 households so far over three days during my walks and have another six to do this evening. I hope to reach 50 households in the area and then I'll find a new project to document during lockdown."

Sasha can only offer the service to people in her immediate area as current lockdown rules do not permit her to travel.

She adds: "Everyone is staying at home now and people don't usually take pictures of their houses so I thought to get them on the doorstep with the house in the background reinforces what is happening now that we are all forced to stay at home.

"I think it will be an historical record of these crazy times as well as something for people to show their children to explain what was going on.

"It has also been nice for me to reach out and meet new people in my local community as well as something positive to focus my attention on."

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Kayleigh and Gary Woolsey with their six children (from left) Ryan, Harrison, Cody, Ellie, Olivia and Larissa

Kayleigh and Gary Woolsey with their six children (from left) Ryan, Harrison, Cody, Ellie, Olivia and Larissa

Kayleigh and Gary Woolsey with their six children (from left) Ryan, Harrison, Cody, Ellie, Olivia and Larissa

Gordon Woolsey (31), a youth worker and chairperson of Scotch Street Youth Club in Portadown, and his family was one of the first to get their picture taken.

Gordon is on lockdown at home with his wife Rhiannon (29), a classroom assistant and birthday cake-maker, and their three young children: Ben (9), Hannah (7) and Jessica (4).

"We have been in lockdown for a fortnight and it has been an up and down experience," he says. "It is frustrating for the kids and it's been hard trying to keep them occupied.

"We are grateful to have a garden so that we can all get outside.

"I think Sasha's idea is great. This is going to be a big part of our history and we are all going to be talking about it for years to come. It's a great keepsake to have.

"We will have the photographs to show to the children when they grow up and they will have them to show to their kids and talk about the time when we all had to be locked in our homes.

"Sasha did a great job. She kept the social distancing and the kids had a laugh doing it. She got us to tickle them and it was lovely and a bit of fun in the midst of all the negativity."

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Joanne and Andrew Wright and sons Jenson and Logan

Joanne and Andrew Wright and sons Jenson and Logan

Joanne and Andrew Wright and sons Jenson and Logan

Joanne Wright (34) and husband Andrew (35) have had their doorstep picture taken with sons Jenson (10) and Logan (7).

Both Joanne and Andrew are continuing to work shifts so that they can look after their sons. Joanne works as a sales assistant in her local filling station and Andrew works in a factory making generators.

Joanne says: "We still have to go out every day and it can be stressful. At work they have put in all the precautions, such as a Perspex screen and marked the floor for social distancing, to protect us.

"We know everyone coming into the shop anyway, and people are really good to keep their distance.

"Our boys are too young to understand what is happening so the photograph is a great thing to have to show them when they are older.

"Getting our picture taken on our doorstep is not something we would normally think about doing but it does feel good to have it as a record of what we are going through now."

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Sarah and Alastair Girvan and their boys Charlie and Tyler

Sarah and Alastair Girvan and their boys Charlie and Tyler

Sarah and Alastair Girvan and their boys Charlie and Tyler

Sarah Girvan (32), who runs her own business The Beauty Shed from home, has had to shut up the venture and is on lockdown with her two small boys Charlie (4) and Tyler (15 months), while husband Alastair (32) continues to work in a local office supplies company.

"I've had to close my business so we are currently living on one wage," she says. "The boys are too young to really understand what is happening and Charlie is really missing his cousins.

"When I saw what Sasha was doing on Facebook I thought it was a brilliant idea. There was a lot of excitement in our house on Saturday with Charlie when he was told someone was coming to take his picture.

"It really did brighten our day and Sasha was brilliant. She took her orders from Charlie who loved having his picture taken and she took loads of him on his own. It was a bit of a treat and lifted our spirits. I think having the picture as a keepsake is great for the kids as they will thankfully not remember this time."

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Gordon and Rhiannon Woolsey with children Hannah, Jessica and Ben

Gordon and Rhiannon Woolsey with children Hannah, Jessica and Ben

Gordon and Rhiannon Woolsey with children Hannah, Jessica and Ben

Kayleigh Woolsey (32), a full-time housewife, is on lockdown with her husband Gary (51), a property developer, and their six children: Ryan (18), Larissa (15), Cody (13), Ellie (12), Harrison (9) and Olivia (2).

Having all eight at home round-the-clock has proven a bit of a challenge but getting a family picture taken by Sasha last Saturday proved a bright moment for them during lockdown.

Kayleigh says: "My 18-year-old didn't get to do his A-levels, which was a bit annoying for him as he had worked so hard, and he is passing the time watching films and talking to his friends.

"My other children are still doing school work and the schools have been fantastic. We are having mini school days, which are really good.

"My youngest Olivia thinks everything is a big party now, having her brothers and sisters at home to play with and mummy baking more cakes than usual!

"I loved Sasha's idea for the 'Doorstep Diaries' and thought it was something really positive at this time. The picture will be a treasure to keep and look back on in years to come.

"It was nice to have everyone together for it and there was a lot of giggling and it was brilliant. I was a bit cheeky and asked her to take a picture of just me and Gary on our own, which is something we never get, and she was happy to do it."

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Emily Gaithwaite and her daughter Isla

Emily Gaithwaite and her daughter Isla

Emily Gaithwaite and her daughter Isla

Emily Gaithwaite (24) is a kitchen assistant in a cafe and is currently on lockdown at home with her three-year-old daughter Isla.

For Emily getting her photograph taken was a reason to get dressed up, something which, sadly, few of us have much reason to do right now.

She says: "It is only week two but it is tough trying to keep a three-year-old entertained as she is used to being with family and her friends at preschool.

"I thought it was absolutely amazing of Sasha to do the pictures as it makes this whole thing come to life and is something to look back on.

"It was lovely to have a reason to get dressed up and put make-up on as usually I am just having a shower and getting back into my pyjamas.

"It was fun getting the pictures taken and my family has seen them and everyone things they are lovely."

Belfast Telegraph