Your Stories From Around the World

//Your Stories From Around the World

Your Stories From Around the World

Stories are pouring in and we can’t wait to share them. We will be posting as they become available.

New Orleans, LA
“Katrina took everything from me. But now you are here to help me get something back, and I thank you for that.”

Soweto, Gauteng, South Africa
Two hundred children ran for me, greeted me with such joyous smiles, wanted to touch my hair, wanted me to carry them, they wanted to carry my bag and tripod and just be helpful and felt like I was some kind of royalty. It was such a joyous event for me and I didn’t want the day to end. I hope they too enjoyed it and enjoy their portraits.

Miami, FL
“I never knew that a stranger could be so caring as to take the time to give me my first-ever, picture with my kids and ask nothing in return.”

Las Vegas, NV
One homeless teen commented “You are all such beautiful people…we should be taking photos of you. You have no idea how grateful we are that you are making us feel so special today. Thank you!”

Cedar City, UT
Photographed a lady that was almost 103 years old.

Radford, VA
I photographed a 23 year old girl that had lost her job,car, and her confidence in her self along the way. She told me that it had been so long since she felt important to anyone she had just given up on life. The fact that I took the time to photograph her was the best thing that had happened in her life in a year. She is giving the portrait to her father to try and rebuild a relationship with him over Christmas.

Bangalore, India
A blind child asking how his photograph looked…

Minneapolis, MN
A survivor of 4 brain aneurysms caused by an ex-boyfriend blessed us by allowing us to give her some amazing photos with AND without her wig. She was beautiful both ways and told me that she had never felt so beautiful in her entire life.

Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
My very first photoshoot ever was with a little boy and his parents, and the son was sick with leukemia, but he took beautiful photographs and was extremely sweet and adorable.

Greenville, NC
We had a lady that had been estranged from her brother since they were babies. Each of them were adopted by different people and only lived one county apart. Just recently they reunited but live 4 hours from each other. Her brother told her all he wanted was a recent picture. As she cried she told us we made his wish possible.

London, UK
Photographing Isolated people from very devastated and poorest areas in South India with an team of 5 teenagers working as assistants/volunteers during a whole month. Incredible feeling for the whole group -the experience of their lives – and for the whole dalit (poorest-untouchable indian caste) people!

Calgary, Alberta
One gentleman (homeless) said, “You made me feel like I was special, like a ROCK STAR.”

Another said, “Whenever I am down on myself, I am going to pull out this picture and remind myself how lucky I am. You captured me in a way that I don’t ever see myself.”

Milton, Ontario
Our HP event was at a respite/hospice house for children with debilitating disease. Most of these children are non-ambulatory and non-verbal. Almost all of these families had never had a family portrait done because of time constraints at portrait studios and the health requirements of their children. Again and again families shared their joy and appreciation that they were being provided with the opportunity to have portraits done that otherwise would have been impossible.

Washington, PA
“You made my Christmas wish come true!”

Toronto, Ontario

“Thank you for taking time away from your kids to photograph my kids.”

Woodstock, GA
We photographed families and patients of kids who had illnesses ranging from cancer to cystic fibrosis, to therapy patients suffering from severe head trauma…the list goes on. I was amazed at the joy that came when that camera was put on these kids. They’re going through so much, but they were able to let it all go for those brief moments in front of the camera.

Salisbury, MD
I took away from this event the absolute need to give back. I already volunteer regularly, but now I want to do it MORE.

St. Petersburg, FL
Watching the women transform, both physically and emotionally. Initially, several of the women expressed being self-conscious or lacking self-confidence. However, once they met with the photographers and spent a bit of time in front of the camera, most seemed to come out of their shells and blossom.

Atlanta, GA
At our site, we worked with families with newborns. It was so wonderful that many of these newborns were having their first photos taken. Along with prints, we will be providing each family with their digital prints so they can share the photos with their family across the U.S.

Green Bay, WI
I was so moved by the opportunity to coax smiles and laughs out of families at the domestic abuse shelter. I know making their portraits isn’t going to change the circumstances, but for 10 or 15 minutes these kids and moms could forget about their cares.

Bangalore, India
A group of over 50 photographers from the Bangalore – Help Portrait Group assembled together at the Samarthanam School for the disabled, visually impaired and underprivileged. Their smiles, their excitement at being part of something they believed was important, their shyness and raw energy. But, most of all their sense of fairness, friendship with and inclusion of those less privileged than even themselves was beautiful.

Dayton, OH
One family was celebrating their first holiday together after the husband/father had been deployed for 3 years.

Camden, NJ
“Nothing is ever free anymore. I am grateful for this. Thank you so much.”

Belleville, Canada
They couldn’t believe we would stand in the cold ALL day just to see people smile!

Mableton, GA
“I’ve been so excited for today! I’m currently going through a divorce, and this is the first picture with just me and my girls. I feel like this picture represents my new life.” – from a mother at a women’s shelter, after leaving an abusive husband with her two girls under age 4.

Georgetown, DE
The very first sitting of the day, was a single, pregnant mother, with her 8th grade son. It was their first professional portrait together. While we were taking the photos, her baby started kicking and it became very emotional for her. She began to cry, and this whole process became more meaningful for all of us. She also began to cry when we showed her the framed, finished photo. Her baby will be named Nevaeh, HEAVEN backwards.

Franklin, TN
I took pictures of a family that lost almost everything in the Nashville Flood. A few days after that, they found out that their son Jack, who already has autism, has cancer, and not the family is trying to put everything back together, but it feels like the weight of the world is coming down on them. Today was a nice break from all of that and they left with a prints and on framed picture and everything on a disk and it really made their day!

Coimbra, Portugal
A blind, elderly man told us that although he couldn’t see, he would trust that we would make a good picture of him. He let us comb his hair, arrange his clothing and then photograph him. He won’t be able to see the picture, but he can be sure he will look as good as ever.

Logan, UT
We were working at the County Jail – those guys don’t have a lot of opportunity for holiday shopping. The very first inmate we photographed thanked us profusely and kept telling us that he was going to give this picture to his kids.

Alexandria, VA
A family came in with a 7 people. They have never had a family photo done before. Before the pictures were taken and she found out that she’d get to take them home today, she started crying.

Cape Girardeau, MO
Family of 5 who lost their house and all their belongings – including wedding photos, family photos – in a house fire. Today, we gave them back a family portrait, something to remind them of that they are still a family. When the dad started crying, the whole place did.

Huntington, IN
One lady told me this was the first photo she’s had taken since she “got clean” four years ago. She said this was the first time she felt good enough about herself. In a sense, it was a way of burying the old her and celebrating the new.

Montgomery, AL
The other location was at a Home for children whose mothers are in prison. Some of these children’s moms are still in prison while some have gotten out and never come back for their children. The mothers who are in prison will get pictures of their children for Christmas. I would love to see their faces when they open them. The children who no longer know where their moms are will now how GREAT pictures of themselves to display in their rooms and around the house.

Apollo Beach, FL
Our event involved taking group portraits of teams from the Sun City Center Emergency Squad (in Sun CIty Florida). This 100% volunteer organization. They respond to calls for emergency medical assistance 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. The mean age of their volunteers is 70! In addition to the team portraits they wanted to get one big group shot – this was 237 people. In order to get the shot the Captain arranged for the local fire department, whom they work closely with to send over their ladder truck which gave me the birds eye view I needed to get the shot.

Budapest, Hungary
A mother said to Us that I had planned to be here in 2009, but we overslept with my kids. One of My friends was there with her kids in 2009 event, she showed me their portraits and I cried. That is why I came here today, to have a special day like they had in last year.

Phoenix, AZ
The homeless family that could not speak a word of English and one or two of our photographers jumped right in and helped translate for them. The family came dressed in the most spectacular, beautiful Mexican style dresses and suits. They were literally beaming and the kids could not stop grinning.

Although I couldn’t understand their language… the smile, laugh and sheer joy on their face as they held their own portrait spoke much louder than words ever could.

Ontario, Canada
We had a very generous gentlemen come as Santa Claus. He also donated gifts for all of the children. One mother shared that “this was the best Christmas ever” because her son finally had the chance to see Santa.

Clements, MD
We went to the Charlotte Hall Veterans Home in Charlotte Hall, MD. There was a resident who was 102 years old. He drove up and down the hallway most of the day refusing to come in. All of the girls were trying to woo him in. He said if we took his picture his ex-wives may be able to find him. :-) Another said he couldn’t have his picture taken because he was part of the witness protection program. Before the day was over, we had pictures of both of them. :-)

Jackson, MS
“I really look like that? I am beautiful.”

Kalispell, MT
“Thanks for giving me my only Christmas present.”

York, PA
As a news photographer, I had photographed several of the fires that left some of these families homeless. It was wonderful to see the children happy and smiling, though some had permanent scars from the fires. It was very heart warming to see how appreciative the parents were to have their families photographed for the holidays.

Berlin, Germany
“I always thought, I am not photogenic – This is why I refused having my picture taken all my life. Today that changed.”

Frankfurt, Germany
“I always felt like a superstar inside. Today is the day I can live it out.”

Ontario, Canada
I have one image ingrained into my head… a shot Mike had taken of a young man with musical aspirations, holding his 8×10 print in his hands, pacing the room for a good 15-20 minutes, with a smile that went from ear to ear. His mom could not get over how how happy and healthy he looked… just incredible.

In one case, the husband was suffering from cancer, and was scheduled for surgery. His wife was thrilled with the picture that they had taken and was going to send copies to their children. It was wonderful to see the smile on her face as she received her photo.

Cary, NC
One mom said she was talking with her mom about how she has NO family pictures of all of her kids and this came along. She did not want to get in the picture since her husband wasn’t there, but after some convincing, I think she was thrilled to see how nice it was and she even commented that she can give one of these pictures to her mom for Christmas!

Roanoke, VA
We did our event at a local shelter and two ladies said that this photo was the first image of them since they had been sober. It was a beautiful thing.

Albuquerque, NM
A 14-year-old girl who didn’t know how long she was going to be at the shelter because her family was “messed up.” She had obviously been there for some time already and there was no end in sight. But in the next breath said, “You just have to keep smiling. I do.” and we sure captured her smiling.

The Woodlands, TX
“Thank you so much for making something I can give to my mom; I’ve never given her a present for Christmas and she will cry.”

St. Louis, MO
A woman from a domestic violence shelter came and only wanted pictures of her kids. As the photographer talke to her she learned that due to what had happened to this woman, she didn’t look in mirrors let alone get photographed. The photographer talked her into getting her picture taken. After she saw the photo, in tears she said, “This is the most beautiful I have ever felt.”

Montgomery, AL
I was telling someone to have a Merry Christmas and her response was “You just made sure of that. This was the best gift I could have ever gotten.

Madisonville, KY
One lady came in for a family photo with her children and grandchildren and informed me that she hadn’t seen these family members in 10 years until today – they got together just for this event.

By |2016-12-03T07:44:23+00:00December 4th, 2010|Updates|38 Comments

About the Author:

Kyle Chowning is the co-founder and executive director of Help-Portrait.


  1. Miriam December 5, 2010 at 1:12 AM

    Lansing, MI – A young man who was just accompanying his friend for her picture. He didn’t want his taken because he was too embarassed. He’d never had a portrait taken. After some convincing, he agreed. He was so happy with his portrait he indicated that was what he was going to give his mother for Christmas because she didn’t have a picture of him.

  2. Antonia Garcia Guerra December 5, 2010 at 1:54 AM

    Holt MI – Event that took place today in Lansing MI. A young girl said to me that she came today because they could not afford her senior pictures. Their was one other girl that come in for that same reason, and that they are so greatful to Help-Portrait.

  3. Pete Herman December 5, 2010 at 3:24 AM

    Just finished shooting 35 portraits in 3 hrs. We were at the Lutheran Home for the elderly this year…what a great group of people to photograph & talk to..Living history!

  4. Jackie Palmer December 5, 2010 at 3:44 AM

    One of our first families that came into today were so wonderful. The gentleman said all he wanted for Christmas was a family photo. A few days later he saw the Help Portrait Lansing, MI event posted and so he came over. He was so greatful and appreciative to all of the volunteers. And he loved that he was a part of something like Help Portrait that happened all over the world on the same day. He was honored to have taken part….he was a part of a giving day.

  5. Lucy O'Dell December 5, 2010 at 4:33 AM

    In Charlottesville, VA after a man who had had his portrait taken was talking with a volunteer he paused and said, “This has been good….for a few minutes, I forgot I was homeless”

  6. Gina Elliott Proulx December 5, 2010 at 4:40 AM

    In Charlottesville, Virginia, volunteers who raised service animals for the disabled got an opportunity to pose for photos with the animals that were soon to graduate and leave their homes and become working dogs. One volunteer who had raised a black Lab, who was destined to leave her and become a Diabetes detection dog said she’d never gotten a decent photo of him.. Upon being given her completed portraits, she smiled quietly and thanked us for providing what she called ‘the only way I’ll have to remember him, once he’s gone on to his working life..’

  7. Candice December 5, 2010 at 5:21 AM

    To read this is too amazing. I took part in the South African project and it was the most rewarding thing I have ever done. It left me humbled and eager to do more. It left those photographed with a sense of self worth.

  8. Ladislav December 5, 2010 at 8:53 AM

    450 portraits, 5000 pancakes, over 40 volunteers, kids fashion show, puppet theatre, magician.. In town with population of 4000. WOW. Congratulations Slatina, Croatia.

  9. Jordan (aka J-dog) December 5, 2010 at 9:03 AM

    This was an incredible day, I brought my 5 yr old son down, to the Union Gospel Mission in Vancouver, to help out while I filmed “behind the scenes.” Really enjoyed watching Jaden hand out flyers to people on the street and greet people …. great moment to watch him learn about the great blessings that come from giving! It truly was beautiful to see so many people smile and radiate pure joy.

    One moment I won’t forget, was watching my son hop and skip, as we walked home – I know he will remember this day! (as will I) … “My cup is full.”

  10. Anna Scott December 5, 2010 at 9:30 AM

    Today in new plymouth, new zealand we photographed a woman who has been hospitalised and is in kidney failure and has four children aged 4-17, a woman batteling caner, a woman who has been a victim of abuse nominated to us by womans refuge and an incredible grandmother who has fostered heaps of children & currently has a 3 year old & 6 year old, she had never been to a hair dresser let alone had a proffessional portrait taken. you just can’t estimate the impact that you’ve made on someone’s life in just a few short hours by taking a simple portrait and that in itself makes it all so momentously worth it! I am very proud to be apart of this event for the second year running and cant wait to do it again next year. Thanks to our stunning volunteers for contributing your time and talents!

  11. Aleksandar Jaredic December 5, 2010 at 9:53 AM

    Video story from Montenegro :)

  12. Jovan Gojkovic December 5, 2010 at 3:06 PM

    Video from Nis, Serbia:


  13. Noelle December 5, 2010 at 6:35 PM

    It truly was a blessing to participate in Help Portait. I am passionate about what I do as a photographer, so to see other people get so excited and share in that passion over a portrait is amazing! “Thanks so much for what you do” we heard numerous times. People couldn’t get enough, it was awesome!

  14. Ron Manke December 6, 2010 at 12:01 AM

    Help Portrait’s not just for the visitor’s to the event. I brightens my world.

    3 different volunteers told me yesterday that they loved HP so much that they plan to do much more volunteering this year! Yet another side-effect of this great event!

  15. sven goewie December 6, 2010 at 12:11 AM

    Help Portrait Belgium / Hasselt.
    a 50-something year old woman said with tears in her eyes: ” I’ve never been “make-upped” before…

    brought tears in our (130 volunteers) eyes… thank you all !


  16. Chris Dickinson December 6, 2010 at 12:55 AM

    Salt Lake City, UT – Photographed a single mother and her daughter that lost her husband a week before the shoot, and her mother a week before that. Heartbreaking and yet, so rewarding.

  17. Cale Glendening December 6, 2010 at 8:40 AM

    Union Rescue Mission LA, Ca – First guy I talked to outside at Skid Row I had brought in and turns out his grandchildren don’t have a single photo of him. They are teenagers and live in Alabama. He is sending the photos to them that he received from Help Portrait. The first photos they will ever have of him.

  18. Thuy nguyen December 6, 2010 at 11:52 AM

    Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam – We have met a street vendor seller in the center of Ho Chi Minh City. Many tourists have taken photos of her but she never has any photo. She felt so touch when we delivered her her portrait that was well printed and nicely presented in a frame.

  19. Thuy nguyen December 6, 2010 at 11:54 AM

    Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam – 50 photographers, 50 supporters and 1,300 portraits on 4/12/2010. More than 30 news release on local newspapers and online new site, 3 TV news, 4 stories on printed papers. That was a great day of sharing love!

  20. Thuy Nguyen December 6, 2010 at 11:56 AM

    Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam – We have met many very old people. They wanted to have a portrait with a thought of a portrait for memory if they would pass over. 3$ for a portrait in studio in Vietnam is expensive for them. That really touched our hearts.

  21. carandavis December 6, 2010 at 1:15 PM

    Thanks for your comments and stories. Keep ’em coming!

  22. Colleen Smith December 6, 2010 at 4:06 PM

    Baltimore, MD- My girlfriend and I came into have pictures taken today, this was the first time we’ve even been in a church and not been judged from the second we walked in the door.

  23. Jennifer Karon December 6, 2010 at 9:36 PM

    Warwick, NY – We met with 56 women and children from a battered women’s shelter. The same group we targeted last year. It was pretty special to have some of the same families return and recognize us. And in turn it was great for us to see a change in them and hope that next year they will be on a new path. We had 5 portrait photographers, 1 behind the scenes photographer, 4 photo editors, 2 make-up artists, 1 hair stylist and numerous other volunteers to help make this day a beautiful one!

  24. Jennifer December 6, 2010 at 10:58 PM

    Vaudreuil-Soulanges, Qc – Over the last few days my phone has not stopped ringing. I have received phone calls from the families who showed up on Saturday just thanking us for making them feel so incredibly special. They were all blown away that we would give up our time to do this for them.

    It has been a while since they have seen such kindness first hand. I am not kidding guys, their gratitude was second to none. From the pampering of hair and make-up to the individual time each photographer gave them, making them feel like they truly were BEAUTIFUL and special, to the conversations they engaged in while they ate and the hugs they received as they were walking away……They felt like they mattered.

    They took something away from that day that I don’t think any one of us can imagine. Some of you don’t know the stories, but we had families torn apart by an unexplainable death of a 2 year old baby girl, a marriage that ended in divorce after 29 years, all the while the husband was cheating with the woman’s next door neighbour , a lady living with the same terminal cancer that had taken her mom some years back and a little 4 year old spitfire waiting for a heart operation. We had sisters reunite who had been estranged from birth and now have become best friends. We had a lady who grew up hating her father and today he is her saviour. She came to give him her picture as for the first time in her life, she felt beautiful enough for him. These are just some of the stories!!!

    So when I say Thank You, it is not only for me. It comes from them and I just wanted you all to know that WE (each of us) gave them that gift……We should truly all be very proud of what we accomplished.
    I am so in for 2011!!!!!!

  25. Ron Manke December 7, 2010 at 2:50 PM

    Edmonton, AB, Canada: There are a dozen great stories from the weekend event, but here’s one: Once of my volunteers who was documenting the event asked if he could take a photo with a lady getting her makeup and hair done, and her response was: “No. I’m too busy crying right now”. Later on, she told him that her self esteem was too low to measure when she walked in, and as she was leaving she held her hand above her head and said: “No, it’s up to here!” and smiled.

  26. Joey Chandler December 7, 2010 at 4:18 PM

    San Francisco, CA – a local community activist told me that many of the senior citizens couldn’t afford to send photos of themselves to their families in their home countries so the pictures meant a lot to them. Plus one family asked one of the photographers, who had played with their two children, to be the children’s godmother. She couldn’t believe it.

  27. Rich Hill December 7, 2010 at 5:01 PM

    Fayetteville, Arkansas: Single mother of two kids: “We lost everything in the fire – including the baby pictures. They haven’t had their pictures mades since.”

  28. Rich Hill December 7, 2010 at 5:03 PM

    Fayetteville, Arkansas: The mother of 13 sons, daughters and grandkids said “I can never get everyone together at the same time – but today I did.”

  29. Julia Pearson December 7, 2010 at 9:08 PM

    I helped out with makeup at our Help-Portrait event in Madison, WI at Karpata Studios. My husband and his best friend and partner shot photos of 21 families. It was amazing doing the makeup for these families. When I showed them their faces, their smiles lit up the room. Many cried as they talked to Channel 3 News and Channel 15 News here in Madison. Thanks for starting this!

  30. HELP PORTRAIT Dayton was a great success on Dec. 4th, 2010 | Peter DeMott Photography December 13, 2010 at 12:01 AM

    […] HELP PORTRAIT is an international event. Here are reports from HELP PORTRAIT events occurring all over the world: […]

  31. steve hill December 13, 2010 at 7:58 PM

    Those are such awesome photos.

  32. […] What is your favorite story that came out of the day? I didn’t meet the family, but I heard of a family with a six-year-old who had never had his picture taken.  Pretty cool to think we provided that for him and his family.  (Read more stories from other 2010 Help-Portrait events around the world). […]

  33. Mike M December 18, 2010 at 11:46 PM

    Dubuque, IA: Had the pleasure of taken portraits of a 3 week old little girl. Her mom said it was her first pictures. Over 13 families came down for pictures. What a great time.

  34. […] from Help-Portrait 2010 can be read on the H-P blog. Photos and videos from the events around the world can be viewed here: […]

  35. Photographers to give, not take, portraits | Absolutetruth December 10, 2011 at 2:05 AM

    […] Across the world, recipients of these portraits express their gratitude. […]

  36. […] Across the world, recipients of these portraits express their gratitude. […]

  37. […] Across the world, recipients of these portraits express their gratitude. […]

  38. Photographers to give, not take, portraits | World News December 13, 2011 at 11:21 PM

    […] Across a world, recipients of these portraits demonstrate their gratitude. […]

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