“Not being able to be close physically is difficult,” Embry said. “I've had some people cancel; some we've pushed off until this passes.”
Embry’s own struggles motivated her to find a way to help other local businesses. She, along with Philadelphia-based photographer Annie Whittington, came up with the idea for #giftcardmonday.
The initiative encourages residents to buy gift cards from a chosen business every Monday. To give the initiative exposure, Embry interviews the business owner via Zoom and broadcasts it live from her Facebook page. In its first week, Embry featured Richardson boutique Beyond the Door.
“We wanted to start off the week in a positive way to remind people to support their favorite small businesses,” she said.
Embry urges those who cannot afford to buy gift cards to share the Facebook live interviews on their own pages using the hashtag #giftcardmonday.
“Spreading the word on social media is, to me, just as important because it gets the word out about different organizations,” she said.
The grassroots initiative started small, but it has since spread across the country, Embry said. Other photographers are doing their own interviews in Illinois and California, she said.
“We are all hoping this [becomes] a huge, huge thing and it helps our favorite small businesses survive these difficult economic times,” Embry said.
Embry encourages businesses interested in participating to email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 214-417-6003.
In addition to the #giftcardmonday initiative, Embry is launching the 10 Yard Push, a donation-based project to help fund senior photos.
For a donation of $65 or more, Embry will photograph graduating seniors in front of their homes. To observe social distancing, the photos will be taken from 10 yards away, she said.
“I feel for the high school seniors ... and I've been trying to think of ways to help them,” Embry said.
Embry encourages students to wear something that is important to them, whether that is a sports uniform or prom attire. Seniors will receive a banner that features their image as well as a digital file of photos. Proceeds from the project will go to Okay to Say, a mental-health awareness campaign.
Embry also recently launched the Snap Happy Project, a three-week online photography course. The class teaches photography techniques and offers photo challenges to keep families entertained during this time, she said.
“[It] gives kids a different thing to do that hopefully alleviates their parents a little bit and [helps them] look at the world in a different way,” Embry said.
Embry hopes these initiatives will help unite and inspire the community.
“I'm trying to look at it from [the viewpoint] that we are all in this together ... and just have faith that things are going to work out,” she said.