Help-Portrait, 12-12-2009

Sometimes seemingly small ideas can lead to bigger things than we can imagine. That's what happened this past Saturday with a movement called Help-Portrait.

A few months ago, Nashville-based commercial photographer Jeremy Cowart had an idea: what if the photographic community offered to make professional portraits of folks who otherwise couldn't afford them, and gave them a print for free?  He called the idea Help-Portrait and declared that December 12, 2009, would be the date for the event (here's the first video that Jeremy made that explains the idea).  The idea circulated through the tubes of the Internet through various social media sites (blogs, podcasts, twitter, facebook, etc.) and gained momentum.  A LOT of momentum.

So on Saturday, photographers and other volunteers all over the world set up studios to make pictures.  For my part, I got connected with a group in Springfield, Illinois.  With the help of staff at Graham Elementary School and coordinators from at least four different churches, we photographed 31 families from 10:00 AM to 2:00 PM.  The enthusiasm and generosity of everyone involved was evident from the moment I arrived at the school, and I could tell that this was going to be a special day.   This was a truly collaborative effort as well.  Springfield-based photographer Kyle Schultz provided lights, backdrops, and other gear to help ensure that the team made great portraits of the folks who came before our cameras.  Kyle is also coordinating our efforts to deliver the prints and CDs of the images to the families.

Serving these families was a real privilege and I'm grateful that I was able to play a part in giving them something special.  The most memorable family I photographed included a mother and her son, a second-grader at the school.  They arrived with a framed photo of the young boy's older brother who is serving in the Air Force.  They wanted to have their picture made with his photograph as well so they could send it to him for Christmas.  After I'd taken a few frames, I showed them the images on the back of the camera.  The mom loved them.

At last count, over 8,300 photographers and volunteers in 42 countries had photographed more than 40,000 people on Saturday (official press release).  CNN has run the story--please take a few moments to watch this moving video that profiles some of those who were helped by having their portraits made.

Here's part of the team that made Help-Portrait in Springfield possible.  My thanks and congratulations go out to them for making this a success and blessing for all those involved.