Signs of hope

Fairfield's Josie Hannes photographs residents making each other smile

Photo courtesy of Josie Hannes

The family of Scott and Lori Vaughan hold up a sign encouraging the community to “Stay Strong.”
Photo courtesy of Josie Hannes The family of Scott and Lori Vaughan hold up a sign encouraging the community to “Stay Strong.”

FAIRFIELD — It just seemed like Fairfield needed a little brightening up.

That’s what photographer Josie Hannes thought when she organized a daylong photo shoot featuring 70 families in Fairfield and the surrounding area. Hannes stopped briefly at each home to take a photograph of a family on their porch or front lawn. Some of the people held signs such as “Stay Strong,” “Hope,” and “One Fairfield.”

Hannes took the photos Sunday, March 29, spent a few days editing them, and put them in a video slideshow that she posted to her Facebook page on April 1. Within a few days, the video had received 9,000 views. People wrote to Hannes to tell her the video brought them to tears.

“It was a good thing to do in the midst of all this,” Hannes said. “It gave people a reason to smile.”

Hannes said the spring is normally the busiest season for her photography business, but the outbreak of COVID-19 and the social distancing rules it has brought have thrown a wrench into hers and nearly every other business.

“We miss seeing our neighbors and friends,” she said. “This is such an odd, scary time. I wanted to do something fun that would capture the heart and spirit of the community, and not just Fairfield. I went all over the place, to Libertyville, Stockport and Batavia.”

Hannes turned this idea into a finished project in no time flat. On Saturday, March 28, she began texting friends and community leaders to see if they’d be a part of her slideshow. Some were hesitant, but most replied with an enthusiastic “yes!” Hannes suggested that family members could hold encouraging signs.

“Most people loved the idea and were excited for a reason to get dressed for the day,” Hannes joked.

In fact, in sharp contrast to Hannes’s usual photo shoots where the subject is wearing their Sunday best, most participants dressed casually. Getting a glamour shot would have been tough anyway with the strong gusts of wind wreaking havoc on hairdos.

“The hardest part was trying to jump out of the car, maintain a safe distance, snap a quick photo, and jump back inside. Then I marked that person off my list,” Hannes said. “Another challenge was that I couldn’t tell people exactly when I was going to show up.”

Hannes said it was comical that so many people were working in their yards on a sunny and windy day, not ideal conditions for photography.

“I was just trying to see everybody in their everyday attire. Nobody dressed up. It was just fun to be part of a community project,” Hannes said.

Hannes, accompanied by her husband Lyle who was driving the vehicle, started taking photos in the morning and didn’t finish until eight hours later.

“It was a grueling day, especially jumping in and out of the car with dust blowing in my face,” Hannes said. “But at the end of the day, it was all worth it.”

The slideshow Hannes produced is six minutes long and can be seen on her Facebook page. She did not charge anyone to be a part of it. It was all done as a service to the community.

“People have texted me, ‘You made me cry,’ ‘This is awesome,’ and ‘I love our small town,’” Hannes said. “It’s sweet to see people smiling and sharing the love.”