• Incremental Change Agency

How taking pictures has transformed my neighbourhood during lockdown

This Easter was different than any other. Around New Zealand (and many parts of the world) we were in lockdown, unable to see friends and family to celebrate. The trips we had planned were replaced with walks around our neighbourhoods to find Easter egg cut outs hanging in our neighbour’s windows.

It wasn’t like any other day. Until today, I had never met many of my neighbours. My next door neighbour and I had talked about having a cuppa for the last four years and still hadn’t, but today we did. From a safe social distance, I sat in the back of my car boot and she sat on a lawn chair. We shared more about ourselves than ever before. I was inspired and amazed. I had no idea about the incredible life she had led and how much lemonade she’d made out of lemons throughout it.

I got a care package from another neighbour with a lovely little card of encouragement. We had only waved to each other over the last four years rarely even getting close enough to say hi, but somehow on this self isolation journey she had become a kindred spirit.

I also realised I’d never actually taken a proper walk in my neighbourhood. There are all these amazing paths leading to beautiful views that I’d never even seen before. Why would I? Everyone from our neighbourhood always started and ended their day in a car. There wasn’t a glue binding us or an event happening to connect us. Until now. This pandemic has been the best thing for building community on my street.

Front Door Project

It all started with the first few days of isolation. I quickly realised I needed a project. I wanted to mark this moment. I wanted to be able to reflect on what it all meant. I knew this would be one of the most significant things that would ever happen in my lifetime. It’s the first time the world has prioritised our most vulnerable over the economy and it has been such a beautiful thing to see!

Two of my neighbours were doing self isolation completely alone. I was worried about them. I couldn’t imagine the loneliness that could come so quickly in that situation. After hearing about a cool thing happening in other parts of the world where actual photographers were taking pictures of people to document the crisis, I thought it would be a shame to not be able to do the same here in New Zealand. I also realised that it was a great way to meet neighbours, build community and check on vulnerable people doing this on their own.

I didn’t recruit photographers to help. I looked for people that were into building their community, meeting their neighbours (from a safe social distance) and loved a good project and helping others. If they had photography skills that was a bonus.

Soon the project grew, from my neighbourhood in Porirua, to a friend’s neighbourhood down in Wanaka, to Auckland, Wellington and Hawkes Bay. It continued to grow into more and more neighbourhoods. There are now over 15 neighbourhoods participating and we can’t wait to see even more come on board as we reach our final isolation days.

This experience has taught me so much about how much we all crave community. There have been amazing displays of kindness, love, music and goodness in the world even in the darkness that is unfolding around us. I’m so proud to live in New Zealand and to be part of something so powerful. This experience shows us how much we need each other and how much we can accomplish when we unite.

Thanks for staying home and saving lives in this difficult time. Your sacrifice of self isolation has made a difference in the world. We’d love you to be part of this project by documenting your street in these final few days and checking on your neighbours from a safe social distance. If you’re keen to be part of it please get in touch with us – hello@incrementalchangeagency.com. Kia kaha New Zealand!

- Abbie McKoy, Incremental Change Agency & Front Door Project NZ