Don’t just take pictures, give them

In August of this year, I sat down with Jeremy Cowart, a well-known and respect photographer, and we shared a meal while he told me about this idea he had. He wanted to rally photographers across Nashville, and maybe even the US, to come together on 12/12/09 and give portraits to people who were unable to afford it. His idea was called Help Portrait and his slogan was, “Give pictures, don’t take them.” Immediately, I was drawn to the idea and volunteered to help.


In late-August, the Help Portrait website was launched in conjunction with this video:

Today, just 44 days since we launched the concept, here’s what’s happened:

  • well over 30,000 views of the video
  • 35,277 unique visitors to the website
  • 3145 people have signed up to learn more
  • 3312 Twitter followers
  • 3456 Facebook “fans”
  • 1318 people have signed up to participate
  • 217 locations around the world and at last count over 30 countries

WOW! Who knew that this simple idea would turn into a worldwide event?!?

Today, I had the pleasure of joining 15 photographers and a makeup artist to do a trial run at the Nashville Rescue Mission. helpportraitTo put it simply, today was amazing. We saw and heard stories that I’m sure we’ll never forget.

One lady, after getting hair and makeup done, stood in front of the camera and started crying. She said, “I’ve just never felt special before.”

A 53 year-old man stood in front of the camera, noticably excited. When asked, he said it was the first time he’d ever had his picture taken. EVER.

One guy must have had a hundred pictures taken of him. Clearly, this was a gift to him. He couldn’t get enough of it.

And on a different note, when I walked around and asked onlookers if they wanted their picture taken, one guy said, “What would I do with it? I don’t have anybody to give it to.” Another said, “I haven’t had my picture taken since going into the military in 1971.” When I encouraged him to have it taken anyway, he simply said he wasn’t interested. I wondered why?

What I learned today is that Help Portrait, something a handful of us have been trying to organize for 44 short days, isn’t an idea, or a movement, or about taking pictures. It’s about telling people that they matter. Lee Ann Dichtel, our liason for the Mission said it best when she said, “You have no idea what you’re doing for these people. Most of the time, when people see them walking on the road, they turn around and go the other direction. So to give them the opportunity to look them in the face and show them how beautiful they are, means a lot.”

Again, wow!

I’m honored to play the role that I’ve been graciously given in the Help Portrait story. I can’t wait to see what happens on 12/12/09.

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