Amherst photographer’s art bloomed during pandemic

Isabella Dellolio in a timed photo she took of herself.

After capturing portraits of nearly 210 local families throughout the first year of quarantine, Isabella Dellolio is no stranger to the Pioneer Valley community. 

Dellolio, like many others, was faced with a lack of work when the pandemic hit in late March 2020. Luckily, a friend of hers sent a link to an article detailing the Front Steps project, started by Boston photographer Cara Soulia. 

“[Cara] was explaining how she does it and she was inviting other photographers to do it. And so, I looked, and I’m like ‘well, this is doable, maybe? I dunno!’ And I didn’t have anything else to do, and it felt like, well, if it works it’s a really good idea all around,” said Dellolio. 

The Front Steps Project officially started in Needham, MA, on March 18, 2020, just as the first COVID lockdowns went into effect. 

It was designed “to highlight the faces of our community during a time when we might not see them.” Participating photographers would go to a family’s house and photograph them from a distance for free. In return for the portraits, families would make a donation to a local non-profit. Dellolio chose to direct donations to the Amherst Survival Center. 

Overall, Dellolio found the project to be incredibly rewarding. “ [I]t was a great experience in working with a lot of people in a short period of time,” she said. 

She was shocked at the sheer number of participating families, as she really “had no idea” how many people would be interested. “[I]t was just great! To see that so many people cared, and did it, and it was nice to give them something fun to do in a time where nothing really happened. And I learned about myself, which I kind of knew, that I could do it too,” she said. 

She also added that she hopes to continue personal projects similar to this for winters to come “that [are] not necessarily making money, but [are] something that feels good to do for others.”