Tammy Lanham, along with her family, moved to Glen Cove from Kentucky in August and less than a year later, she would find herself capturing members of her new community in a photo book titled “Circles of Light.”
The name comes from the dictionary definition of corona; “a white or colored circle or set of concentric circles of light seen around a luminous body, especially around the sun or moon.”
“We have had many people here and in Kentucky ask us if we wished we hadn't moved here, if we ever thought about moving back because of the pandemic,” Lanham said. “We were here six months before the pandemic started, but we’ve told everybody ‘no, it’s not even a consideration, because we are home.”
Lanham, whose skills include photography, web and graphic design, marketing and branding, was left wondering what she could do with her new slots of free time in late March. Her freelance work was no longer available and she wanted to find a way to continue pursuing the passion she’s had since 2002.
“I’m a person of faith and I was praying, ‘God please let me be able to handle all of this, help me do something with my camera,’” Lanham said. “This idea just popped into my head and I thought, ‘oh my goodness, what I could tell stories with my camera.’”
She posted on the Facebook group called “Glen Cove Neighbors” to recruit subjects to stand on their porch in everyday clothes, have their picture taken and tell their stories from a distance. Within an hour, Lanham said, she received about 30 replies.
Within days, she would purchase a website domain for her website and photograph the first 15 families and individuals. “I did not sleep through any of it,” Lanham said. “It literally took less than five days from concept to completion.”
“When Tammy gets plugged into something, she sees it through,” her husband Tommy Lanham added. “Sometimes it means late hours and early mornings and sometimes she locks herself in the office to finish something that she is doing.”
Two weeks after she interviewed the first families on March 25, Tammy Lanham would show up to more porches, taking more photos and hearing more stories. Among the stories that really stuck with her was from a Glen Cove High School senior named Julian Ledesma, whose job at the local King Kullen makes him the only essential worker in his family.
His father, Andres Ledesma, said that when the pictures were taken, the idea of a pandemic and what it means was still new to his family. “It was difficult,” he said. “We were still kind of hopeful that our son would go back to school.”
When asked what the future holds, Julian said he is looking forward to his first semester at Farmingdale State College and hopefully a normal summer. “Hopefully this is over in the summer so that I can go out and have my last summer before college,” Julian Ledesma said. “I’m just looking forward to finishing the last of my semester and just being done with high school.”
And even though Lanham’s project may be finished for now, as she has just made her book available on her website, she plans to visit the families 12 months from now to catch up. And in five years, she plans on getting another update from them.
The Ledesma family will have a different story to tell when Tammy Lanham returns to their porch. Since she was last there, Andres Ledesma’s father passed away. “During this whole Covid-19 pandemic, he wasn’t able to really get any visitors,” Andres Ledesma said. “And now with his funeral, we don’t expect that many people to show up. I don’t think we can have that many people show up.”