New Liskeard photographer captures pandemic life in small communities

A photographer in New Liskeard has uploaded a captivating peek into what it’s like running a local business during a global pandemic.

Justina Phippen recently uploaded dozens of photos she captured of businesses and organizations in and around Temiskaming Shores. The project helped her to process the profound change the pandemic has had in her part of the world.

“I’ve been a wedding photographer primarily for over 10 years now. I do families and kids and all sorts of different types of photography. I’m located in New Liskeard, but I do travel, I’ve done destination weddings and in different countries as well as all over Ontario,” she said.

But the dozens of bookings she had were postponed as the threat of the COVID-19 virus moved its way across the north.

Justina Phippen normally photographs dozens of weddings and families, but those bookings dried up during the pandemic. (Justina Phippen/Supplied)

“It was quite a shock to our industry, even locally in New Liskeard,” she told Up North CBC host Jonathan Pinto.

And it was a shock to her community.

“Starting in March, when I first walked into our local grocery store and saw the barriers put up of the plexiglass and saw the masks and just our cashiers, they didn’t look recognizable to me. And I’ve lived in New Liskeard all my life,” Phippen said.

“I’m used to seeing these people’s faces and things like that. So being a photographer, I knew that I wanted to document this part of this time in our history.”

During the most recent lockdown, she pulled out her photography equipment and started snapping photos.

Luxe Day Spa by Melissa in New Liskeard was also featured in the photo documentary of small town life during the pandemic. (Justina Phippen)

“I just knew that I wanted to show how our businesses have been struggling and coping with everything and trying to adjust, some of them, their whole storefronts, just to be able to stay open.”

Phippen gave a couple of examples.

“We have a local store called Chat Noir, a coffee coffee bar and a bookstore.  And they completely had to move their coffee bar station to the front of their store so that they could have a takeout window. And it’s things like that that I really wanted to capture,” she said.

“There’s another store called the North Cobalt Flea Market that we have here, and it took out a whole section of their store and brought in groceries so that they could stay open. Being a photographer, I wanted to capture this for them so that they can have as their own history, five, 10, 20 years down the line and to show their own children what they had to do to remain open and stay positive throughout this pandemic.”

New Liskeard’s Chat Noir Books had to make some major changes to its store front to be able to stay open during lockdown. (Justina Phippen)

Phippen wound up photographing more than 50 businesses.

“Everybody was open and willing to do it, which was amazing. I also photographed organizations, the local medical team, the OPP, and the local art gallery.”

She took the pictures free of charge.

“I wanted to document it for myself as well. So I wanted to offer it to them as a free session. Some businesses got a handful of pictures and some, they wanted me to stay and shoot around the whole store. So they ended up with, say, 30 to 40 pictures. So it really depended. But it was completely free for them.”

Since uploading her pictures on social media, Phippen says the response has been positive and “really overwhelming to see.”

Tap the player to listen to the whole interview.

Up North7:40New Liskeard photographer documents local businesses during global pandemic

A photographer in New Liskeard has uploaded a captivating peek into what it’s like running a local business during a global pandemic. Justina Phippen recently uploaded dozens of photos she captured of businesses and organizations in and around Temiskaming Shores. 7:40

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