Stanley-Carl du-Pont is an H-P organizer for CODP Help-Portrait in Johannesburg, South Africa. He offers an overview of his group’s ambitious plan for 2011. We hope it inspires you as much as it has us.

South Africa is a country of many contrasts: From having one of the widest wealth gaps between rich and poor, to being the largest economy on the African Continent; from being the first African country to host the FIFA World Cup, to having unemployment as high as 25 percent.

Help-Portrait is therefore a project perfectly suited to this unique environment, and one that adds tremendous joy to the lives of many, many people. So many, in fact, that the CODP Help-Portrait group is aiming to give 25,000 portraits this year.

The team of volunteers already numbers more than 100 photographers, with a dedicated volunteer work group facilitated by the College of Digital Photography in Johannesburg driving the group onward and upwards.

The target of 25,000 portraits is not arbitrary – it’s based on the success of the group’s efforts in 2010 that yielded more than 5,500 photos. These were taken of individuals in needy communities and included abandoned and orphaned babies, toddlers and children, the homeless, disabled and elderly people across the South African rainbow nation.

Three months of shooting

Tackling a task as monumental as this requires intensive co-ordination and forward planning, and a little flexing of the original Help-Portrait model.

For a start, the portraits are going to be captured over a period of three months – from September to December. The bulk of the images will be captured in the first two months, with the team fanning out to rural communities, informal settlements and squatter camps where the “neediest” are to be found.

Children in under-privileged schools will also be targeted as that is a sure-fire way to gather large numbers of beneficiaries together. As an added value to these schools, a complete set of digital images will be provided for use for the schools’ records and yearbook.

Due to the demand and popularity following last year’s program, CODP Help-Portrait is also actively expanding to other provinces, and even neighboring countries, with the project team taking these fledgling Help-Portrait enthusiasts under its wing.

Adding value to photographers

Reaching the targeted number of portraits is as much a function of the organization behind the events as it is about getting the volunteer photographers confident and geared up to shooting groups as large as 400 people or more.

For this reason, the project team has arranged a number of workshops to help less-experienced photographers tackle shooting portraits under variable lighting and on-site conditions. Free training is being provided by some of the more accomplished team members, as well as trainers from the College of Digital Photography.

Taking the concept even further

As if setting such an ambitious target for the year is not daunting enough, the project team has added other elements to its activities that directly address needs in the country.

The first of these is job creation, with a sub project – Help-Portrait PhotoStar – initiated to develop at least four candidates from under-privileged backgrounds to the point that they can confidently enter the market as independent, self-employed “PhotoStar” photographers by the end of the year.

Educational training will be provided by the College, with discussions currently under way with equipment providers and professional photographers who will sponsor their kit. Help-Portrait volunteers who are working professional photographers will provide mentorship and in-service training.

In addition, CODP Help-Portrait will be launching Help-Portrait Goes2Town to involve volunteers in visiting smaller towns to create a complete photographic collection that showcases the town’s landscape, people, arts, food, and other aspects that may be of public interest. This material will then be provided to the town’s local administration as well as national tourism bodies to promote interest and economic activity in those areas.

Another initiative, Help-Portrait Exchange, seeks to encourage volunteer exchanges between CODP Help-Portrait and other Help-Portrait groups, while Help-Portrait 4PBOs encourages volunteers to offer free photography services to public benefit organizations that serve needy communities.

The merits and benefits of Help-Portrait continue to enchant all who are touched by it. And the proof of this is borne out in the way the project is expanding rapidly and also in the unexpected ways in which it can so easily be added to.

Giving free portraits will always be the project’s mainstay and that has provided a great foundation to build on using three key pillars: giving back, giving freely and giving through photography.

It is hoped that by sharing knowledge, stories and experience with the greater Help-Portrait community, that others too will be inspired to get further involved in their communities in need.

CODP Help-Portrait has also posted a discussion thread inviting other Help-Portrait groups to consider partnering with their group on their new Exchange initiative. Join the conversation!


Here are some photos shared with us from CODP Help-Portrait that were taken during the hand-over and distribution of portraits.

CODP Help-Portrait

CODP Help-Portrait

CODP Help-Portrait

CODP Help-Portrait

CODP Help-Portrait

CODP Help-Portrait

CODP Help-Portrait

CODP Help-Portrait

CODP Help-Portrait

Posted on Apr 19, 2011  |  Category: H-P Organizers, Inspiration  |  No Comments

Photo and story by Kevin D. Hendricks

Armed with a video camera and an iPhone, Mark Horvath walks up to a pregnant homeless woman and asks if she wants to tell her story (video). The result is painful and eye-opening: Turning to drugs to numb the pain, forced into sex for survival, ending up pregnant and not knowing who the father is.

This is what homeless advocate Mark Horvath does. He talks to the people we’ve decided are invisible and tells their stories, posting the raw, unedited video to his site, InvisiblePeople.tv. He launched the nonprofit site in 2008 while only a few weeks away from being homeless himself — again. In the mid-1990s Horvath spent nearly a year homeless on the streets of Los Angeles.

The experience of being homeless gives Horvath a unique perspective and urgency. That passion has taken him on two cross-country road trips, he’s appeared on CNN and NPR, and last spring he won the $50,000 Pepsi Challenge at SXSW.

A new book inspired by Horvath, Open Our Eyes: Seeing the Invisible People of Homelessness (full disclosure: I’m the editor of that book), shares the stories of 35 homeless people, offering an opportunity to move beyond the stereotypes. With a foreword by Trust Agent author Chris Brogan, the book also includes reflections from social media experts, nonprofit heroes, technology executives and more, sharing their perspective on homelessness and how Horvath’s work has inspired them. The book is a manual to motivate action and all proceeds benefit InvisiblePeople.tv.

We talked to Horvath about his work and this new book:

Why did you launch a site to help homeless people when you were nearly homeless yourself?

Two reasons:

1) When I started InvisiblePeople.tv, I was close to 19 months unemployed, moving fast forward into foreclosure. I don’t think I could have filled out one more job application, and I filled out a lot. I couldn’t find work and I had to do something to keep from going crazy.

2) I knew from my own experience that the homeless story wasn’t being told correctly. We needed to empower the homeless to tell their own story. Nonprofits would produce these pieces, but it was always for fundraising and sugar coated whatever the nonprofit needed. People detach from that. I don’t want to call InvisiblePeople.tv reality TV, but it’s as real as you can get. It’s unedited and raw. You get the good and the bad. You get to hear what life is like on the streets. And that’s how we effect change.

So with those two things pulling at me I didn’t have much of a choice. I was forced into it. I’d love to quit, but I just can’t. It has become my life. Besides, great men and women are ordinary men and women who do not quit.

You’ve crisscrossed the country twice now — in 2009 and 2010 — talking to homeless people. What’s it like out there? Is it getting any better?

We need more Waffle Houses. Seriously, it’s not getting better and it’s going to get worse. We have a problem with the older generation now entering retirement years without any savings or healthcare. That’s going to put a huge tax on the social service system to an extent we’ve never seen before.

I’ve traveled all over and what I can tell you about homelessness is that it’s not the geographic location that changes homelessness, it’s the community. The homeless people in Anchorage, Alaska, have to do different things to survive than those in Tampa, Fla. However the reason there are more homeless in Los Angeles is not because it’s warmer weather, but because there’s so much bureaucracy. Bureaucracy kills.

A community can embrace homeless or bulldoze it. If you embrace homelessness and try to figure out a solution — like 100,000 Homes — you get people off the streets and save lives and save money. If you go into a city and there’s aggressive panhandling, it’s because there’s no services for the people. We need to think of creative ways to get them off the streets.

You say in your contribution to the book Open Our Eyes that you’re not a hero and you’re not even that nice. If you’re not a hero, who is?

The big hero of my life is my stepfather, Casey Jones. Casey was always honest, always real, always admitted his mistakes. He was a very good role model for me.

That’s one of the problems we have today—we have a trust deficit, as Chris Brogan says in Trust Agents. If you trusted the Salvation Army and other large homeless services, there wouldn’t be any InvisiblePeople.tv. We need more integrity and commitment to build trust. That’s what my stepfather had.

And I’m really not that nice. To me, a hero is like Peter Parker, a nice kid who does nice things. That’s not me. I’m just loud and pushy.

The book supports you and your work with the nonprofit InvisiblePeople.tv. So how will that money be used?

Money that comes in to InvisiblePeople.tv is used to continue the education and activism campaigns. It continues efforts like WeAreVisible.com.

I’m very grateful. People on social media have kept me going. I’ve been honored to win the Pepsi grant, but it’s the $25 gift that’s kept InvisiblePeople.tv going. I get beds when homeless people move into apartments, get RVs out of impound — whatever’s needed.

What InvisiblePeople.tv does is change perceptions. Millions of people who would never have rolled down their window at an exit ramp to speak to a homeless person have been touched by InvisiblePeople.tv. Because of that housing programs have been started. That is amazing and proves we need more.

What’s the best way we can help homeless people?

I just posted 35 ways you can help the homeless on Twitter.

There are a lot of great causes. Maybe homelessness isn’t the cause that touches you. Then find something. I support charity: water. Whatever. Find your thing.  Maybe homelessness isn’t your cause, but there’s enough madness in the world that you can find a cause that fits you.

If homelessness is your cause, then your first step is education. Part of education is listening. If you’re walking down the street, just listen to people. Reach out and get involved at your local level. Most homeless services are overtaxed and don’t know how to coordinate volunteers. So don’t just go to one place and give up after a bad experience. You need to try a few until you find one that can use your talents. It can be as simple as writing letters to your senators. Maybe you can cook. Maybe you like to talk to people. Maybe you’re an accountant. Whatever you can do, we need you.

This post was first published at HalogenTV.com. Used with permission.

Posted on Apr 11, 2011  |  Category: Inspiration  |  2 Comments
  • Mooch Mooch

    The more articles I read about Mark, the more I learn. I had been wondering if he won the Pepsi Challenge or not - and now i know! Congrats!! And if I may, I'd like to mention one of my own posts where I've listed some not so common items homeless people would benefit from. These are actual items I use myself while living in my car in Los Angeles. http:// doingithomeless.com/cans-are-good-socks-even-better-hear-moochs-recommendation/
    Mooch | 28/04/2011 3:57 AM

  • Video offers Incredible access for Donors « Operation Church Video offers Incredible access for Donors « Operation Church

    [...] Mark started the project when he found himself homeless, and when asked why he launched the site Mark said (excerpts taken from an interview by Kevin D. Hendricks): [...]
    Video offers Incredible access for Donors « Operation Church | 27/10/2011 1:44 PM

Many of you have noticed that the date for the 2011 event appears to be different than what we originally announced. Nice catch.

After doing Help-Portrait for two years now, we couldn’t help but notice how difficult it was to pull off the worldwide event the weekend after the US Thanksgiving holiday. So, rather than try to compete with shopping, families and other distractions, we opted to move the date permanently to the second weekend in December. Therefore, the new date for this year will be…

10 December 2011

Mark your calendars and start your planning early.

If you’ve already made arrangements for the 3rd, it’s okay. The goal is for you to give your talent and expertise away freely—no matter when.

Posted on Apr 06, 2011  |  Category: Updates  |  10 Comments
  • stephan mantler stephan mantler

    Good choice. Please update your logo ASAP though, it's still saying '3 dec 2011'. Cheers -step
    stephan mantler | 06/04/2011 12:37 PM

  • Richard Richard

    YEAH!!! That first weekend is always full. This will make it a lot easier! (for me and I hope a few others)
    Richard | 06/04/2011 2:19 PM

  • Ron Manke Ron Manke

    Unfortunately, in Canada, the first weekend was much better for most people... Scheduling an international event on the same day can be challenging, I bet.
    Ron Manke | 06/04/2011 3:34 PM

  • David Haysom David Haysom

    unfortunately after year 1 we had very strong feedback in Sydney that the 2nd week didn't work for various reasons. We will test the waters with people to see what they think of this change, but suspect we will remain on the 3rd.
    David Haysom | 06/04/2011 8:43 PM

  • kylechowning kylechowning

    Hey everybody. You are more than welcome to do any day that works best for you. All we ask is that you send in your numbers to http://bit.ly/helpportrait. Thanks!
    kylechowning | 07/04/2011 1:37 AM

  • Cristian Cristian

    Unfortunately this won't be better over here (Netherlands)...
    Cristian | 07/04/2011 8:16 PM

  • Glenn Glenn

    I'm in. Just have to figure out what that means. When and where in Dallas should I be on that date?
    Glenn | 08/04/2011 2:32 PM

  • Aggy Aggy

    jZKg3k Good point. I hadn't thoghut about it quite that way. :)
    Aggy | 15/04/2011 2:46 AM

  • Jacob B Jacob B

    I just noticed that the logo on a few different related pages still shows different dates. (community.help-portrait.com and help-portrait.donortools.com). Just thought I'd let you know! :)
    Jacob B | 15/04/2011 9:04 PM

  • Brian Carey Brian Carey

    The fact that you went ahead and changed the date on the HP blog is going to cause some confusion for those of us who already started getting things going. I would have thought a good solution would have been to have the banner read December 2011, leaving the exact day out. Anyone who is interested would inquire further. I think next year if we do this we will pick our own dates, these dates are not the most desirable for those of us in more temperate climates. Regards, Brian Carey
    Brian Carey | 05/05/2011 9:39 AM

We’re happy to report that the 2nd annual Help-Portrait event, held on 04 December 2010, was another great success. Here are the official contribution numbers by our amazing and generous photography community:

  • 61,060 portraits given
  • 3954 photographers
  • 7766 volunteers
  • 46 Countries
  • 47 of 50 US states

All told, since 2009, the Help-Portrait community has given away 101,596 portraits to deserving people. Wow. The stories that could be told are amazing. In fact, we’ve got a handful of them that you should check out here.

Thanks again to you, the Help-Portrait community. This idea wouldn’t be anything without you.

Now, keep on, keeping on.

Posted on Apr 06, 2011  |  Category: Updates  |  3 Comments
  • Brian Carey Brian Carey

    ... including St John's Newfoundland Canada this year. Looking forward to it! :-)
    Brian Carey | 06/04/2011 11:00 AM

  • Eric Villa Eric Villa

    I can't wait to do this again. I am a professional photographer and hairstylist and plan on doing this type of thing throughout the year.
    Eric Villa | 06/04/2011 11:14 AM

  • Ron Manke Ron Manke

    How many provinces participated in Canada? :) I know we were pretty active in my province, so I'm really curious.
    Ron Manke | 07/04/2011 2:10 PM