Lockdown Spotlight: Jenny Smith

We have loved seeing the innovative ways photographers have kept creative and busy during the Covid-19 lockdown. This week, we are highlighting how North London-based child and family portrait photographer Jenny Smith has kept busy during lockdown. We found out Jenny raised over £21,000 with her doorstep portraits for the domestic abuse charity Refuge. We chatted with Jenny to find out what first inspired her to keep photographing during the lockdown and why she chose to raise money for Refuge.

Raising money for Refuge

We all experienced that restless period during lockdown where we didn’t know what to do to keep busy. Jenny realised the best thing to do was to put her photography skills to good use and try and raise some money for a charity close to her: “I’ve been wanting to raise money for Refuge for a long time ever since a friend took her own life after years of domestic abuse, so I set up a JustGiving page and set a target to raise £1,000.”
Jenny initially saw this project as a small personal one to keep her busy during the lockdown, but she quickly realised she was onto something special with her work: “I honestly thought just a few friends would take part but when I’d reached £1,000 in under 24 hours I knew I was onto something. The project has now raised £21,234 and it has taken nearly two months for me to reach the end of the waiting list.” The overall reaction to Jenny’s charitable work has been amazing. From a little personal project that she thought would only attract the attention of close friends and family, she has managed to raise a fantastic amount of money during a time when Refuge needs it the most: “People have been so thankful. Thankful for me raising so much for a charity that has experienced a 700% increase in web traffic since we went into lockdown… The statistics are frightening with domestic violence; one in four women have or will experience domestic abuse in their lifetime, that’s massive. It means that many of the people who have donated have a story to tell about a friend, or something in their own lives.”

Preparing for post-lockdown

An unexpected bonus of the Front Door Photos project for Jenny has been building a new network of potential clients for the future: “I really thought it would only appeal to a few friends, so I didn’t approach it from a marketing perspective at all. But I have now met over 450 families who all live within a mile or two of me who may end up booking me one day. Not only have they all met me, but they all have an example of my work and I can’t think of a better way to have brought myself to their attention.” Jenny believes her project was such a success because of the charitable aspect: “I think when you do something for completely selfless reasons it resonates with people, it’s far more powerful than actively going out to get new clients or putting flyers through the door.” Having finished her Front Door Photo series and raised so much more than she ever expected, Jenny now has a huge number of potential clients who really appreciated her work during lockdown: “In the early days of the project, I was the only person these people saw all day, so it created a real moment for them in the day. For some it was a reason to get dressed up for the first time in weeks, for some it acted as an activity for the kids, others ended up having fun with it by dressing up in something wacky.”
Jenny has some advice for fellow photographers struggling to get back into the swing of things post-lockdown, she believes photographers should try and shift perspectives in the coming months and try and find new clients: “I guess it’s a time to think outside the box. We can’t simply carry on as before, we need to adapt to the ever-changing situation. I think we need to look and see if this situation has created a new market for us. Some businesses have actually seen a bit of a boom and maybe they’re the people we need to approach for work.”
In the meantime, Jenny thinks doing some photography for charitable causes is a great way to keep busy, do something good for your community and get your name out there even if no one is ready for photo shoots yet: “I would really encourage other photographers to do something for charity. Get yourself out there and visible to your local community – who knows where that might take you.”