Bert McLendon is a photographer in Austin, Texas, who volunteered at Help Portrait event in Raleigh, N.C. in 2010. He was so inspired by the idea that he pursued a personal project in a similar vein. He shared this note with us, and we asked him if we could share his story here.

“A few months ago I wrapped up a personal project in the style of Help-Portrait. Volunteering at the Help-Portrait event is the direct reason I did this project and will continue to do projects like this. I just want to say thanks for doing what you do. Keep up the great and inspiring work; it not only affects the lives of the subjects but of the volunteers as well.” -Bert McLendon

Editor’s Note: For more information on how to do Help-Portrait by yourself, read our post, “What if I’m the only one?

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On December 4th, 2010, I volunteered my time to an organization called Help-Portrait, a global event that is focused on giving the gift of photography to people in need. One day a year during the holiday season, photographers around the world take portraits of people in need. Individuals and families who are struggling are given special attention, receiving hair and makeup, a professional photoshoot and a printed memory to enjoy. At the time of the event I was unemployed but there was something about this event that drew me in and I knew I had to be a part of it. I wanted to photograph at the event in Raleigh, NC, but the photography spots were already filled. The only spot needed was post processing/print tech.

As weird as it may sound, I’m so glad that there wasn’t a photographer spot open. The task that I had was the most fullfilling of all tasks that day, handing the prints to the people who were struggling with life in so many different ways. At the time, I was struggling myself, but after seeing how little others had and how little they lived on every day, it changed my perspective dramatically. Some of these families had never had a family photo taken.

My outlook on how I would use my photography was shifted in a direction that I had never imagined. After the event I started thinking about places where I could do a solo Help-Portrait event. I thought about the UNC Burn center, Duke Childrens Hospital and other established organizations. As luck would have it, as soon as connections started to be made, I made a huge transition in my life and moved down to Austin, Texas. A year later, after settling into the most awesome city in the world, I was introduced to the Marbridge Foundation in Manchaca, Texas, an independent living facility for people with special needs. I approached them with the idea and spirit of a Help-Portrait style project and we were able to execute their very own portrait day.

I was able to capture and deliver, with the help of my beautiful wife, 70 portraits of the residents. The residents were super excited on the day of the shoot and even more excited when they were handed the prints. I’m looking forward to the next portrait project.

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