Covid-19 hits Meals on Wheels in particularly challenging ways.
This is not the first time Philadelphia photographer Colin Lenton has worked with Meals on Wheels, a non-profit that provides meals for homebound seniors. Around 2016 he was brought on for the first time and has spent four or five days shooting for them each year since. He’s now collaborated with the non-profit in many locations, including the states of Texas, Florida, and California, while his latest actually took place in the same location Colin first worked with Meals: Mercer county, New Jersey.
Since COVID, the shots for Meals on Wheels have new obstructions. Not being able to go into the seniors’ homes, for example, means that all the pictures of recipients had to be taken through doorways.
I prefer portraits that are true to the subject and their environment so I don’t like to manipulate or control the scene very much… For me the key to good honest portraiture is connecting with the subject to show as much of their personality or character as possible.
Along with the cautiously distanced portraits, there are a number of photos of just the homes of the recipients. Meals on Wheels asked Colin to take shots like this even before the pandemic, but they seem to carry a new aura given the circumstances.
The exterior of the home tells a story, it is a glimpse into the age of the home and the subject, their socio-economic status, their decorating style and so much more. It was always an important part of the home-bound senior’s story — but now maybe more so than ever.
Meals on Wheels is supported by donations from individuals and corporations alike. Recently, the NFL hosted a Draft-a-thon, making it easy for people to learn about and donate to non-profits with COVID-19 relief efforts. Donating is what keeps Meals on Wheels going. Given the statistics, it quickly becomes apparent how necessary the work they do is.
Over 9.5 million American seniors face some kind of food insecurity. One in four seniors live alone, and one in five feel lonely. Meals on Wheels seeks to solve these issues through meal deliveries.
Since Colin’s previous work for Meals on Wheels was so portrait-heavy, it would seem that the masks worn by many of the people involved would be a frustration for a photographer. The adjustment was easy for Colin.
The mask is only a small hurdle to me. It makes it a little bit more difficult to communicate with some of the seniors, especially those who are hard of hearing and rely on seeing your lips move; but when it comes down to it I think the most powerful connection between two people is in the eyes.
To check out more of Collin’s work, visit his website.