“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.
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.
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.
“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
“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
View a video from the Help-Portrait Newmarket event by clicking here.
“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.
More photos from the Burkina Faso Help-Portrait day can be viewed on
Carson’s flickr page.
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
See more photos from the Madison, WI shoot and read Amandalynn’s full post by clicking here.
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.
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
View more photos from the Help-Portrait Greensboro shoot on Andrew’s site.
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
To see more photos from Help Portrait Munich, visit Kristina’s website.
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
I was walking a family to the portrait studio, and the wife asked me if it was photography students who run the shoots. I said “no, they are all professional photographers.” She asked me why they were doing this for free, and I said “because it’s the holidays, and because why not.” She didn’t appear to believe the whole no-catch thing until she walked out with photos in hand.
- Emily Litvak, Volunteer, Help-Portrait Flagstaff, AZ
At first, I wasn’t quite sure how taking someone’s picture could help them. After a few hours at the event, I understood completely.
Most of the people in the pictures below shared their incredible stories with me. From massive weight loss to overcoming various struggles, each subject was proud of something they’d accomplished. One gentleman was even celebrating his 60th birthday.
The event reminded me why I began taking pictures in the first place. With some lights, camera, and a whole lot of action, a fraction of a second can be preserved and cherished.
-Max Grudzinski, Photographer, Help-Portrait Philadelphia
View more photos and full post on Max’s website.
I am a high school photography teacher in Queensbury, NY, upstate. I had students volunteer to be part of Help-Portrait at The Open Door Mission in Glens Falls, NY, this was our second year there. As a teacher, the best part is seeing the impact the event has on the students. Several of them were skeptical and worried, understandably, that they would be offering charity to people who may not want it. They quickly realized that this was not the case at all. They had great interaction with the subjects and got great results. I don’t think they will ever forget how it felt to give the portraits to the subjects.
-Anthony Aquino, Queensbury, NY