Meet Aja. She’s a make-up artist, a hair stylist and part of a large team of individuals that came together in late September to hold a practice Help-Portrait event. She was reluctant to get in front of the camera at first, but I’m glad she did. I’m not above begging to get a great shot.

     What is Help-Portrait? Help-Portrait is a global movement of photographers using their time, gear and expertise to give back to those in need. The basic premise is finding someone in need, giving them some pampering, taking their portrait and then giving it to them. All at no charge.

     I first heard of Help-Portrait earlier this year. My friend Barry had been talking about this event where photographers get together to serve their community by offering portrait services to those in need. The idea sounded nice but I’m ashamed to say that I didn’t think about it very much further than that. He would mention it again a couple months later and I would agree that it sounded like a good idea and then I would forget about it.

     One day he sent me an email that had a link to the official Help-Portrait website. I decided to have a look and see what this whole thing was about. I watched a three and a half minute video of organizers and participants talking about what they were doing and how it affected them. I swear I tried my hardest not to cry but it didn’t work. It was just too moving and I knew right then that I wanted to be a part of this thing.

     Barry and I talked and we decided to do sort of a dry run, a practice test to see what kind of issues we’d run into logistically. We set a date of September 24th and got busy. There was a lot of planning involved to make this little event happen, but there was also an abundance of help from some amazing people. It was incredible to watch everyone working together to pull this off. Everything went smoother than could have been imagined.

     The best part of the whole day was seeing the look on peoples faces when they saw their photograph on the back of the camera. These huge Cheshire Cat grins would grow so big they couldn’t hide them. That was the real payoff, the reason we were there. To make someone smile, to help them feel better about themselves, to try and share a little hope with others.

     It was an emotional day. You see, ever since I found my passion in using a camera, I have been amazed at the level of joy it gives me. It provides me with a form of expression that I don’t find anywhere else. When I found my home behind the lens, I felt a sense of place and immediately knew that I wanted to spend the rest of my life taking photographs. It has benefitted all other aspects of my life.

     My focus has been on how I could use my camera to make my life better. I left that day with the new understanding that the passion I have for photography is expressed in it’s truest form when I use it to better the life of others.

     There’s a subtle osmosis that occurs when you honestly try and spread a bit of hope to someone who needs it. Just in putting forth the effort, you gain a little yourself.

     Help-Portrait day is December 4th, 2010. If you’d like to be involved, check out the official Help-Portrait website. You don’t have to be a photographer. You don’t have to know how to use Photoshop. You just have to be there.


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