“I sat down to talk to a gentleman who was wearing a sweater with the American Flag on it. His name was Norm and he was a veteran who had served for 4 years. He told me that he was having a hard time and was about to lose his job and apartment. His mom had not seen him for over 3 years and he was getting his photo taken to send to her for her Christmas gift. He was extremely grateful!” –Gina Rice, Indianapolis
“One teenage girl from a women’s shelter was excited to give the portrait to her mom, whose birthday was the day before. We had some women from a Women’s shelter, and their head counselor said that this was great. They have hard lives, and this gives them a break from this for the day.” Keith Mosher, Georgetown, Delaware
From Jaclyn Boutwell, Houston, TX:
We saw this lady walking down the street. I ran outside and asked her if we could do her picture. She said “Please don’t, I’m so ugly. I don’t want a picture of myself.” I told her we had hair and make up people and promised she’d feel good about the way she looks. She tried so hard not to smile because she only had 6 or 7 teeth. After her make up was finished and she saw herself, she had the biggest smile and just cried! She kept saying “I’m so beautiful!” The entire room was weeping.
It was so amazing to watch her transform like that. She said she’s never worn make up before and no one has ever touched her face like that. She felt special. Once she sat down for pictures she could see them coming up on the computer screen. She was saying “I look like a model!” She couldn’t write so she asked me to write on her portrait for her. She wanted the world to know that because of Help-Portrait, she got to see a side of herself that she’s never seen before. It’s the first time she’s ever felt beautiful! That moment, made the entire event and all the leg work more than worth it. It was an unbelievable experience.
It’s impossible to explain the joy on both sides of the camera. People need to experience it to see just how impacting a simple picture can be. It’s more than their basic necessities. Sure, they need food and clothes. But everyone deserves to be loved and to feel beautiful.
From Chuck Murphy, Austin, Texas:
A woman that was deaf came in by herself to be photographed. Although admittedly we had no one that knew ASL, we were able to communicate with her through a few hand gestures and a lot of written notes. She was very patient with everyone. After having her hair done and makeup applied, when she was shown herself in the mirror, her smile was ear to ear. While the photographer captured her images, he was very patient taking the time to write her notes explaining what he wanted to do. She was VERY happy with the images and was so very thankful for the beautiful framed 8 x 10 she took home with her.
[A] mother commented [on] how she felt like a regular person while she was having her hair done and her son sat patiently on the side, totally content to just sit there and watch. She was also so very pleased with the images captured of her son, commenting she couldn’t remember the last picture she had of her son that portrayed him smiling and relaxed. The photographer just clutched his heart after they left because he was so touched by that mother’s problem’s that she dealt with on a daily basis with her autistic son.
The feeling of my heart about to burst due to the grateful folks that while we knew would never be our clients (for those of us who are paid photographers), but also the fact that they knew this is the only manner they would ever get to have nice portraits taken of them.
Personally, this event charges my heart for months as we always have families that are so very appreciative of what we are doing for them, and we are satisfied knowing that we have truly helped others feel better about who they are.
From Nellie Quiros, Vero Beach, Florida:
Despite torrential downpours all day long, we quickly went to Plan B, which was move it inside my studio, have three sets and receive the guests from The Homeless Family Shelter who were scheduled to be transporting 2-3 families every hour. It went smoothly and I’m not sure who received more of a blessing the volunteers or the guests. Not just the ladies but little girls and boys too, gushed about the fun they had and not ever looking so beautiful while leaving the hair and makeup stations. While waiting for their portraits our guests enjoyed treats donated by many in our community, sandwiches, veggie platters, donuts, cakes and cookies, even fresh squeezed Florida orange juice! There were also activities at the arts and crafts station where guests were found making Christmas ornaments. The best part was hearing the bus driver before he was leaving with the last of the guests say, “I wish you could be in this bus listening to what these folks are saying as I drive away to take them back. This has made them feel so good and it’s brought so much joy to them, especially the children. Thank you for doing this.”
This little boy had his hair “done” and was overjoyed to wear his button down and jacket. When asked by his mom what it had all made him feel like inside, he said, with big ole tears in his eyes… “Happy”!
“I felt like falling in happiness today.” -Maria, Orange County, CA
Volunteer Wendy Rueter shares a little more behind this magical photo: “Early in the day this sweet lady came in. She spoke no English, but her joy was evident! Our make up artist, Isabel, added just a bit of color then put a ribbon in her hair and she just lit up! Thankfully Isabel is bilingual and was able to translate for us and even helped Maria by writing her comments on the photo below. I had no idea how powerful it would to be able to deliver the prints right then and there. It was such a blessing to let the photographer who took the picture hand deliver them.”
Read Wendy’s blog for more behind-the-scenes from the Santa Ana event.
“Last year I photographed a family that had lost a lot in the Nashville flood and their son was diagnosed with cancer all within a few months. When I photographed them, he was undergoing chemotherapy. Well, this year they all walked in and their son was cancer free!! He has a walker now to assist him, but his family is happy and so is he! It was great to see them back!” –Joe Hendricks, Franklin, TN
From Paige Sayles, Louisburg, North Carolina:
Help-Portrait of Franklin County, North Carolina, targeted families who previously had requested assistance in obtaining student school supplies through our local United Way. Our target families were not obviously poor, but because of the local economy were having a hard time affording the “beginning of school year” supplies many families take for granted.
Many (most) of our families had never had a family portrait taken. One family came in and then called their cousins to join them. Both families went home with portraits of the extended family, their individual family and group photos of the kids. Throughout the day we heard comments like “I look beautiful!”, “I have never looked this way!”, and “This is my first portrait.” were heard.
On a lighter note, we used a room in the building that houses the town’s police and fire station. The police station was empty but we invited the two men on duty at the fire department (we live in a small town) for portraits. As our fireman was photographed (looking very official in his turn-out gear), a professional studio strobe chose that moment to burn up and smoke up the room. How ironic to have that happen while photographing a fireman.
This year I partnered with several groups that volunteered because it sounded like a good thing to do and by the end of the day those volunteers were already talking and planning for next year; how to give out more photographs and get other groups involved. Best of all, one volunteer asked if it was too late to add another venue this holidays project.
From Muhammad Salman Bin Mohamed Khair, Ai Nghia, Quang Nam, Vietnam:
Most of us take a camera or a portrait of ourselves for granted. Conducted Help-portrait for the orphans and caretakers at Dai Loc Orphanage Centre revealed to us how excited they became to be able to get an instant polaroid film of their portrait. In gist, you never know how much a photograph means to someone until you give =)
We are a group of photographers/volunteers from National University of Singapore, carrying out a community service called “project keo.” We are here in Vietnam to actually contribute our first support of food supplies for the orphans at Dai Loc Orphanage Centre. Fortunately for us, Our visit coincides with Help-Portrait 2011! So viola!
We chose an instant polaroid film because we have delivered photos to them before and thought of doing something a little different this time. We are glad that worked!
“‘I haven’t seen this many smiles here in a long time’: Quote from our coordinator in charge of events at the Senior Assisted Living Center. People are willing to help, all you need to do is ask. People like to be needed. There’s a job for everyone. Sometimes you just need to sit and listen and give people time… that is more valuable than anything else.” –Carol Davis, Hollywood, MD