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Mike Cowart knew the power of photography.

 

In what he describes as the darkest season of his life in 2004 following an accident, job loss and enduring a divorce, Mike was given a gift. The gift of photography.

Photography gave Mike hope.

Just two days before Mike passed away tragically from a heart attack at age 43 earlier this month, he wrote this status update on Facebook as he announced the launch of his new website, MyrickStudios.com:

“Something inside of me came alive, gave me hope, told me to hang on. I fell in love with capturing people’s stories, their souls, emotions and beautiful moments. God is so good. Don’t give up on your dreams.”

Help-Portrait in Action

So it was little wonder when Mike jumped at the chance to give the gift of hope through Help-Portrait.com, founded by his younger brother Jeremy five years ago.

Mike served alongside Jeremy and others in the Nashville Help-Portrait group for several years, including last December, when Mike was joined by both his brothers, Jeremy and Benji, to sing together after a day of shooting portraits for individuals and families in need in the Nashville area.

Perhaps the most amazing thing to see happen in the days following his death in March has been seeing Help-Portrait in action: 40 photographers have stepped in and have volunteered to shoot the remainder of Mike’s weddings this year, and are donating the proceeds to his family. There’s no better gift a community and a movement can give than reciprocating the love and grace one of its own has faithfully given.

If you’d like to give in Mike’s memory, you may do so by:

Purchasing His Worship EP

Mike was a worship leader at his home church in Hendersonville and had a worship EP, which is being offering as a $5 download to benefit Mike’s beautiful children, Noah, 15, and Reese, 11.

Donate Directly to a Fund Set up for His Children

There’s an additional donation fund set up for them as well.

Give a Gift in His Name to Help-Portrait

In lieu of flowers, Mike’s family has asked for contributions to be made to Help-Portrait. So even in his death, Mike is still giving and serving through the gift that gave him hope, so that others may experience it as well.

If you’d like to read more about Mike’s story, visit his website, and this article published in The Tennessean.

Posted on Mar 26, 2014  |  Category: Story of the Day  |  1 Comment
  • Rodrigo Rodrigo

    MA
    Rodrigo | 29/03/2014 4:08 AM

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The Vanajeros are a group of four professional photographers and filmmakers based in Bozeman, Montana who have decided to take a bit of a wild ride. They have come together to use their talents literally across the country, as they take free portraits for people from Montana all the way to Ecuador. Three months in a VW van-turned-mobile-photography-studio will be an adventure to say the least, and most of all will make a difference in the lives of everyone they encounter.

We asked the Vanajeros about their trip and how we can support them. Here’s what they said:

What inspired this trip?

Aidan brought us all together with a idea he had for this VW Vanagon: turn it into a mobile studio, and drive it from here (the Northern U.S.) all the way through Central America, eventually landing in Ecuador. Initially, we were in because it sounded like a great adventure. It was clear the trip was going to be very meaningful for each of us. But as it stood, the trip was just for personal gain. That wasn’t quite enough for us; we wanted to somehow find a way to give back to these cultures and people that would be sharing so much with us. Then we remembered working with Help-Portrait at MSU, and we got into the idea of putting photographs into people’s hands.

Why do you think portraits are so impactful? 

The portrait is something that everyone appreciates. Whether it’s of your grandmother, best friend, or your family, portraits are tokens of recollection. Memories blur and fade away as time passes, and photographs are tools we use to keep those moments or people close to us. However, most of our lives have become over saturated with portraits of our friends, our families and ourselves. The digital era has made it all to easy for many of us to forget how valuable these photographs can be. By providing tangible photographs to people who don’t have the privilege of having a portrait made of themselves or their family, we are both sharing these precious mementos and exploring the value of these images beyond a Facebook post.

What do you hope the people you photograph get out of this experience?

Really I think all of us just want to give something back to the people that allow us to photograph them. The portraits to us are a gesture to show our appreciation. We want to really embrace the idea of a cultural exchange and want the portraits to mean as much to the people being photographed, as they will for us.

Why Ecuador? Where will you stop along the way?

Aidan has a bit of history in Ecuador and the list of places were planning to stop is constantly growing. If the stretch to Ecuador is successful we could very well keep driving south. It just seemed like a perfect checkpoint.

How can people support your trip?

Starting this March were taking part in Kind Snacks “Do Something Kind” campaign which is an online vote-based grant for projects, which will help us get the van to where we would like it to be for the trip. The following month we’re launching the Vanajeros official Kickstarter to raise money for equipment and supplies. People can help by spreading the word about the trip, voting, and donating. Any bit would be greatly appreciated.

Anything else we should know?

We want to thank Help-Portrait for supporting us, Pixuru online printing as well as everyone supporting us on our Facebook and Instagram pages. We really wouldn’t be able to do this project without all of you. Join us by following @Vanajeros on Instagram or Facebook.com/vanajeros on Facebook as we prepare and embark on this journey!

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Posted on Feb 26, 2014  |  Category: Story of the Day  |  3 Comments
  • Amanda Amanda

    What an awesome undertaking! Have a great trip... Will watch for updates.
    Amanda | 26/02/2014 6:03 PM

  • Susan Susan

    So excited for the Vanajeros!
    Susan | 28/02/2014 3:19 AM

  • paolo paolo

    very beautiful
    paolo | 28/02/2014 8:18 AM

The Coral Springs Camera Club of Florida, for the last three years, has provided free photos to the residents of Broward Outreach Center in Pompano Beach, Florida as our Christmas gift to the residents. It is a homeless shelter and training center for about 150 people, made up of abused women, families and adult males that need help in reentering the job world. About 70 residents participate in the photo shoots.

One man told Joe, the photographer, that he had not been in contact with his mother or family members for more than five years. He told us he was going to send his mother the photos this Christmas as a gift so she can see her son at his best.

It is soul-warming to know someone else sees the need and uses their talents to server those God puts in our path.

- Randy Shine, Member – Coral Springs Camera Club of Florida, Event Organizer

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Posted on Jan 08, 2014  |  Category: Story of the Day  |  No Comments

“Lac-Mégantic, a small town in the Eastern Townships of Quebec, was changed forever on July 6th, 2013 when an unmanned 74-car freight train derailed in the heart of the town killing 47 people and decimating over 30 buildings.

We set up a special Help-Portrait event to give photographs to anyone who was touched by this horrific event, as well as to the families of the first-responders from the surrounding areas who helped extinguish the fires.

Polyvalente Montignac, Lac-Mégantic’s high school, allowed us to use their gym as studio space. The school was used as emergency shelter after the tragic accident as many people were evacuated from their homes.

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Though the day was generally upbeat, people shared some very difficult stories with us. Stories of loss, of tragedy. We are very thankful that people shared their stories with us and allowed us into their lives.

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We thank everyone from Lac-Mégantic for welcoming us with open arms and beaming smiles. We all had an incredible day, one that we will not soon forget.”

- Tim Snow, Photographer, Help-Portrait Lac-Mégantic

Read Tim’s full blog post and see more photos from Help Portrait Lac-Mégantic’s event here.

Click here to view a time-lapse video of the day.

Posted on Jan 07, 2014  |  Category: Story of the Day  |  No Comments

“I asked my teenage son to have a photo taken with me. He VERY reluctantly agreed. On the day of the photo shoot he wouldn’t get out of bed. Then he was doing everything possible to stall leaving the house. We almost didn’t make it to the shoot. He told me that quite honestly he really didn’t even want to go. We argued as mother & son would do & dragging his heels, he finally agreed to join me. He was a grump during the entire drive to New Hope Methodist Church. Humour works with my son so I told him in the car that I was going to let the photographer know that I didn’t want a traditional pose. I said our pose may as well be honest and depict the truth about our relationship during his teenage years. I said I was going to post in a fist fight with him to represent the teenage years. Ford chuckled and didn’t think I’d do it but I did and this is actually the reason why we got such a nice smile from him for the 2nd pose.

I would never have been able to afford a family photo of my son and myself. You have given us a gift of memories that will continue to give for generations to come.”

- Pati Couckell, Participant, Help-Portrait Newmarket

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“Combining the strengths of 66 professionals & community members, 9 other sponsoring organizations, many non-profit organizations and community leaders that spread the word, Help-Portrait Newmarket created 318 smiles, printed 600+ portraits and made a positive difference to many lives. It was an amazing day, and an amazing community collaboration.”

- Danielle Koren, Event Organizer, Help-Portrait Newmarket 

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View a video from the Help-Portrait Newmarket event by clicking here.

Posted on Jan 07, 2014  |  Category: Story of the Day  |  1 Comment
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“This December I had the chance to be in Burkina Faso, Africa on December 7th. Along with filmmaker Tyler Faires, we setup a Help-Portrait event in the poorest area of Burkina, Sector 30. Throughout the day we captured over 175 portraits for these beautiful people.

One of our highlights was having the privilege of shooting for the Handicap Association of Burkina Faso. Often neglected by their own community, over a dozen individuals joined us to have their picture taken. It was an amazing experience I will never forget.”

- Carson Nyquist, Production Coordinator/Photographer, Envision/Help-Portrait Burkina Faso

Click here to view a video from the Help-Portrait event in Burkina Faso.

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 More photos from the Burkina Faso Help-Portrait day can be viewed on
Carson’s flickr page.

Posted on Dec 23, 2013  |  Category: Story of the Day  |  No Comments

I’ve been the Lead Coordinator of the group for the last 3 years. The first year I was involved as a Lead Photographer and that event was an eye opener for me. My very first Help-Portrait session was for a single mom and her kids. At the end of the shoot, which had gone fabulously, the mom, with tears in her eyes, hugged me and told me that I had made her Christmas. She said that all she had ever wanted was a photo of her and her kids together and I would never know how big of a gift this was for her. It blew me away. She was right, I had no idea.

Up until that moment it hadn’t even occurred to me that someone could be that touched by something I do for fun every day.

It showed me how important and valuable a portrait really is to someone who has never had one. It had never occurred to me that showing someone they were worthy of a professional portrait, when they never had had the means to get one, could transform that person’s self-esteem. The experience changed my view of the faces of people in need in my community and I knew from then on that Help-Portrait was going to be a long-time passion of mine.

This year, we had more than 50 volunteers, did 215 sessions and served 774 people at two food pantry locations–a huge growth from the 12 people we served three years ago!

- Amandalynn Jones, Photographer, Help-Portrait Madison, WI

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See more photos from the Madison, WI shoot and read Amandalynn’s full post by clicking here

Posted on Dec 18, 2013  |  Category: Story of the Day  |  1 Comment
  • Diane Diane

    so awesome to use your gifts to make others happy! The gift of your art shared and enjoyed by those that otherwise can not afford what they consider a luxury! well done!!!!!
    Diane | 18/12/2013 8:38 PM

The lady with the lighter blonde hair was the first to get her photo taken. We asked her if she’d like us to do her hair and use some makeup. She was ecstatic and didn’t know what to say. She sat there with a smile on her face the whole time and was so thankful for someone to care for her.

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One lady just looked at us, almost in tears, and said “why are you doing this for us?” We explained that it wasn’t because of anything in us, but because of what God has done in us that causes us to love one another and bear each other’s burdens.

We ended up giving out our contact information to everyone who attended that day and we’ve had several responses back for prayer, needing help finding a job when you have 2 felonies, and helping finding places to live and get established.

We also partnered with Crossway Publishers. They gave us 40 brand new ESV bibles to give away. We signed and gave away 38 bibles. Some people were even coming in and asking for a Bible, but didn’t necessarily want a portrait. 

We got so many hugs that day!

-Andrew Laparra, Photographer, Help-Portrait Greensboro, NC

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 View more photos from the Help-Portrait Greensboro shoot on Andrew’s site.

Posted on Dec 17, 2013  |  Category: Story of the Day  |  No Comments

Our team of photographers, videographers and make-up artists spent a day with the families and children living at a hospital that cares for babies and children with rare heart problems- supplying their parents with a place to stay with them at the Ronald McDonald House next door.

These families are going through tough times right now. You would not expect as many smiles in such a place as we saw, but in the end it’s life and it’s about holding your loved ones close, in good times as in bad.

-Kristina Assenova, Photographer, Help-Portrait Munich

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 To see more photos from Help Portrait Munich, visit Kristina’s website.

Posted on Dec 16, 2013  |  Category: Story of the Day  |  1 Comment
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I am not a photographer, make up artist or hair stylist, but I know many people who are. I am a personal trainer/fitness instructor. One of the groups I train consists of mentally and physically handicapped adults. When I heard about the project, I thought it would be really cool to see who I could get to come and bless these people with an event to do this.

We had 16 participants, 1 professional photographer, 5 hair stylists, 5 makeup artists, 1 manicurist and several ‘nail painters,’ plus a few people willing to do anything, show up. One makeup rep who couldn’t make it donated ‘goodie bags’ with skin and makeup products to give them as a take home gift.

It was so awesome! To see the willing generosity of those who gave of their time and talents, and the beaming faces of the participants. They LOVED getting fixed up and having their picture taken. We will be printing, framing and then delivering the finished product to them.

Everyone just kept saying over and over how special/cool/awesome/amazing this was. AND it will probably become an annual event for this population.

-Gail Cuthbert, Federal Way, WA

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Posted on Dec 14, 2013  |  Category: Story of the Day  |  No Comments