Giving back through pictures

I had a neat opportunity over the weekend to volunteer with a cool nonprofit effort called Help-Portrait.

It’s a nationwide — and actually, international, too — movement to help others through photography. Photographers, makeup artists, technical gurus and not-very-talented people like me join together to make portraits for people in need.

Each person who comes to a Help-Portrait event gets a free, professional 8×10 photo of themselves or their family. No strings attached.

The Help-Portrait Baltimore group set up two locations: Captivate Church near Patterson Park and the Helping Up Mission.

I baked cookies and worked with the hospitality crew at the church. Mostly, I sat and chatted with guests as they waited for their portraits to print. I got lots of kids hopped up on sugar and made plenty of cups of hot chocolate.

Believe it or not, I’m not really an outgoing person. I’m actually an introvert! So I was a little nervous at the beginning. But I put my reporter experience to good use. After all, I joke that I am a “professional question-asker.” I asked the guests questions and got them chatting about their families, why they came, what they were hoping for in their pictures.

Most of the folks who came were from the neighborhood. It’s not a great neighborhood, but it’s not a terrible one, either. The neighborhood has those blue-light police cameras and too much litter blowing down the streets. The folks didn’t seem to be in terrible straits, but they’re the kind of folks for whom a real professional portrait is probably out of reach. Some hadn’t had a nice photo done in years.

All of the guests really seemed to enjoy the experience. And so did the volunteers. The photographers, especially, really put a lot of time and attention into the event. They set up all their shots with crazy lights and reflectors and backdrops. I could tell they put just as much effort and heart into these photos as if they were being paid hundreds of dollars per family. They also were generous with their knowledge, explaining things to me as they were setting up and when there were breaks.

If you’re interested in Help-Portrait, I encourage you to check them out on their website or on Facebook.

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