My beginning with Help-Portrait started with my personal belief that as photographers we should GIVE more than TAKE.  I attended a Vision seminar lead by Jeremy Cowart and as he described Help-Portrait to us, fireworks went off in my heart.

My first effort was and has become a huge part of me now.  I contacted a friend who personally had experience living in a shelter as a child.  Her life story has become a part of me, and I knew the shelter she lived in was where I would start with Help-Portrait.

The shelter we work with is a battered women’s safe house.  It’s a ray of hope for women and their children when they are on the run from their abusers.  This home is safe.  In the lives of women who are being abused, it’s hard to find anything safe.

When I contacted the director about bringing Help-Portrait in, she was overcome with awe that we would come and give away such a beautiful thing.  I gathered up volunteers.  I asked people to come and give, and give without expectation.  They did.

I know in all Help-Portrait communities, we as volunteers are overcome as we watch the joy shine out of people as they see their printed photographs.  There’s something special and life-changing about how we SEE ourselves.

People who live in this shelter have a very hard time seeing beauty when they look in the mirror.  They have a hard time believing they are worth loving.  Many grew up in abusive homes and then leave and move into abusive relationships.  It’s a terrible cycle to witness.

I recently got a call from the shelter asking me for some proofs from December 2010 Help-Portrait.  One of the women I photographed was murdered by her abuser.  She left two little ones behind.  They now don’t have a mother or a father.  They only have their memories and … pictures.  The pictures I took.  The pictures we GAVE away.  They are the only professional images they have.

I remember this mom clearly.  She radiated joy in sitting with her beautiful children for pictures.  She was full of love.  My heart breaks in the loss these little ones will live with and face.

If I can help just one person see themselves in a beautiful way, my work on this earth is done.  Photography is not about equipment, pixels, edits… it’s about people.  It’s about capturing beauty and emotion.  It’s about giving.

My life is changed forever by this and I’m encouraged to GIVE in a way that I never have.  Above and beyond.  Help-Portrait is one vehicle in which I’m using to do that because these people, no matter who they are or where they’re from, are worth all the effort my life can muster up.

Posted on Jul 30, 2012  |  Category: Inspiration  |  6 Comments
  • D'Artagan Winford D'Artagan Winford

    WOW! this is touching and inspiring. I'm a new photographer and this gives me purpose for my work. thanks for sharing
    D'Artagan Winford | 30/07/2012 8:49 PM

  • Cathy Stroede Cathy Stroede

    message*Totally amazing story! Thank you for all you did and will continue to do!
    Cathy Stroede | 30/07/2012 11:41 PM

  • Jerry Jerry

    Inspiring indeed! If we all did photography beyond ourselves then this world would not be the same as we would seek to leave those we met with a memory in hand that would last a lifetime. Thanks for sharing.
    Jerry | 31/07/2012 3:23 PM

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    [...] Help-Portrait event leaves only memories, and a picture for them to remember her by. Pictures that Shelly took, and GAVE [...]
    An Open Letter to the Help-Portrait Community | Help-Portrait | 08 Dec 2012 | 15/08/2012 6:01 PM

  • Michael Lobisch-Delija Michael Lobisch-Delija

    That is what raises our hearts again and again :-)
    Michael Lobisch-Delija | 16/08/2012 8:37 PM

  • Tonny Masha Tonny Masha

    Am touched by this story, especially the following sentence: If I can help just one person see themselves in a beautiful way, my work on this earth is done.  Photography is not about equipment, pixels, edits… it’s about people.  It’s about capturing beauty and emotion.  It’s about giving. Toony Masha (South Africa)
    Tonny Masha | 28/08/2012 2:16 PM