AUSTIN, Texas – Lately, Christina Tróchez has been spending a lot of time with her dog Hershey, looking for work and doodling.

What You Need To Know

  • Photographers started with "Front Portraits" earlier in pandemic

  • Changing economy prompted them to help job seekers

  • Offering free professional headshots for Austin residents on the job hunt

"I love making little themed patterns," said Tróchez, sketching a coffee table on her electronic tablet. "I'll take this that I draw here, and then I will put it into InDesign on my computer and then I'll make a pattern."

Graphic design is what Tróchez had been doing at a chocolate company, helping configure chocolate box layouts, as well as social media marketing, up until the end of 2019. Company cutbacks resulted in Tróchez being laid off.

"And then, you know, COVID-19 happened and that did not help," said Tróchez, who is still searching for her next career opportunity.

Competition for jobs has been fierce, but she's hopeful that updated headshots will help set her apart.

"The first thing employers look for is, they google you or look you up online," said photographer Chris Lammert. "To have a good representation of what you look like now and current and smiling, especially with the beautiful Austin skyline in the background - it shows that you're local, you're trying."

Lammert and his partner Keelyn Costello had been taking photos of people on their front porches during the height of quarantine, in a project they called Front Portraits. Many of the families they snapped pictures of were starting to feel the economic pressures of the response to COVID-19, with many saying they had just lost a job or side gig, according to Lammert.

Now, the duo is helping people make the best first impression possible, by offering professional headshots sessions free of charge to Austin-area residents searching for work. They're calling this project Keep Austin Hired.

"For us as photographers, you know, the way that we can help is by taking photos of people and headshots seem to be the most important thing for getting a head start on finding a new job," said Lammert.

Lammert and Costello helped coordinate with the Long Center to allow for a central space for the photo shoots. In four days of shoots spread over several weeks, the photography philanthropists have conducted photo shoots for nearly 200 Austinites, including Tróchez.

"It's definitely, you know, made me feel better and given me a little confidence boost," said Tróchez.

While Tróchez hasn't landed a job just yet, her new headshot is giving her renewed hope that there's a job out there for her.