In December I participated in a wonderful cause. It was called the “Help-Portrait”. It took place on December 12, 2009. Photographers, hair and makeup artists and other helpers got together and set up in various places throughout the United States and on one day – December 12, we offered our services to those less fortunate than we free of charge.
I was with a group in Chesapeake, Virginia and we photographed about 30 or so people, some with families, some individuals. I was able to also teach some of the newbie photographers some tricks of the trade as well as help these wonderfully deserving people receive a portrait.
I feel blessed to have participated in such an event. I would like to share some of the comments received from those who were photographed as well as the person from the Union Mission who made sure many of them had transportation to the portrait location.
“I really enjoyed and was happy and was pleased by the people who took my photo. God bless them all.” -SR
“I always dreamed of being a model; getting my hair and makeup done, then doing a quick photo shoot. Talk about dreams come true. Thanks a lot!” -YB
“Taking this picture was a great experience. I really had a blast letting the girls style my hair and put on my makeup. They really made me feel beautiful. It was the best time I had in a long time. Thank you to the Union Mission and all the others who were involved.” -MM
“I haven’t felt that beautiful in a long, long time.” -CP
One of our older residents who participated in HELP Portrait told me that she always worried about not having a photo for her obituary, but that now she could rest assured that a beautiful picture would be next to her name. As morbid as they may sound, I thought how wonderful that her mind could be at ease about such a thing. She had not had a portrait of herself in over 30 years. Another resident, who has significant head trauma including loss of hair, loved the experience of getting all dolled up. She wore her wig and was so pleased that the hairstylists were able to style her wig and make her feel “beautiful”. She stared at amazement at her portrait repeating, “This is me, this is me!,” inferring that she had never seen herself as beautiful.
Tiffany Sparks said
HELP Portrait was one of the best services for indigent persons that I have seen in my career in human services. Many of the individuals I serve have not had a professional picture taken of them since grade school, if they ever had one at all. While it is undeniably true that many people become homeless through their own carelessness, poor choices, and addictions, I come in contact with countless women who lose their residence through no fault of their own, who are doing everything within their power to regain financial stability. Sadly, I often hear reports of these women feeling looked down upon or feeling “less than” the rest of society. They lose not only their home but their dignity.
Many organizations contribute toward the essential needs of the homeless, but few contribute to restore the dignity, self-confidence, and emotional wellbeing of the homeless population. HELP Portrait was one of those rare and precious experiences that worked to uplift its participants in such a way as to say, “You are still worth something. You are beautiful and I want to take your picture.” Each of our residents walked away with more than a photograph, they walked away with a sense of pride and self-worth that had been missing for a long time. It was an encouraging reminder that there are people thinking of them, thinking that they are valuable. If that’s not success, I don’t know what is.
Sometime you do things just because it’ the right thing to do – this undeniably was the right thing to do!