We recently announced some big changes to Help-Portrait. 1. We’re going to start showing the photos if the subjects want us to. 2. We’re going to have them draw and write on their actual photos and tell their stories. 3. We’re going to hand the cameras over and let them do some shooting.

I’m so excited to show you what this looks like, finally.

I ran a small Help-Portrait event Sunday in downtown Los Angeles at what’s known as “The toughest block in the U.S.” We were at the Union Rescue Mission at Skid Row. I’m new to LA and had no idea what to expect. But I was excited about trying all our new ideas this year: showing the photos, telling the stories ON the photos, having people sign model releases, handing the camera over, etc…

Here’s how each went:

Handing the camera over: Easy. No-brainer. They loved it. I had several people telling me about how they had wanted to be a photographer in the past but had to give up due to their situation. Their eyes lit up when I told them that they could be the photographer this time. It was a big deal and made me really excited to hand over my camera…

Showing their photos: Every single person happily signed a model release. (We’re absolutely okay if someone doesn’t want to. We will always respect and honor those wishes.) But each person was almost giddy at the idea of their photo being splashed on our website and on the Internet. In fact, some of them asked me to “promise” them it would go online. They asked for our web address and wanted to know when they could see themselves on the Internet (we’re working on a solution to that right now). Just like the photos themselves, this is also something we take for granted: having our photos online. It’s very special for someone to have a nice picture online that they can send to relatives, etc., especially in time for the holidays. This new direction was a big hit.

The stories on the photos. I printed at least two pictures of every image – one for them and one for us. For our picture, they wrote something ON the photo. I told them to write anything. Literally anything. Whatever the day meant to them, or whatever they wanted to say to the world or about themselves. This was their chance to speak their minds. I don’t have to explain how powerful this was. You can see for yourselves below.

With all these new additions, it made it very clear that this year is going to be more special than ever. I cannot WAIT to see the stories and photos that emerge from your events in a few weeks.

Til then!