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Austin photographer spreading the light in a world darkened by coronavirus

Courtney Rutherford joins a national effort to take pictures on people's front steps for charity.

AUSTIN, Texas — Courtney Rutherford's walk in her West Austin neighborhood of Riverplace on Tuesday was a new routine.

Her business took a turn for the worst last month, like so many others.

"My business was really awesome and then this time was uncertainty hit and business really slowed down actually it came to a screeching halt," Rutherford said.

Her clients canceled one after another.

But Rutherford is lucky. She doesn't have to work, so she came up with an idea.

"I sent an email out to my neighbors and they were on board and I said, 'Let me take your photo, let me capture this moment in time for you. This is history and one day your kids are going to show your grandkids these photos,'" she said.

She joined a national movement among still photographers, holding quick photo sessions of families on front steps while maintaining social distance.

Rutherford calls her project spreading the light because, during these times of being cooped up, we can all use a smile.

"We've been stuck at home. We've been in our PJs and our sweats. We want to give families a chance to get dressed up, put something else on, step outside their house for something other than their fifth walk of that day," Rutherford said.

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Mother of three young children, Tina Stevens, couldn't agree more.

"This is such a great cause and it gave us a reason to get dressed and get family pictures and really capture this time," Stevens said. "All dressed up with nowhere to go. The little ones tell me they can't wait to go back to school."

KVUE'S Jenni Lee asked eight-year-old Sophie Stevens, "Are you dying to go to school?"

Sophie said, "Yes." 

Lee asked, "What do you miss about school?"

Sophie said, "Science and I miss my friends."

Sophie's younger brother, Benjamin, said, "I like recess and I miss my friends too."

Whether they go back this year or not, they'll always have these pictures, reminders of an unforgettable time in history.

Rutherford doesn't charge anything for the photo sessions. One-hundred percent of the donations go to Hope Austin, a nonprofit that provides meals to students of Leander ISD on weekends.

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