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Getting your picture taken. Doesn't seem like that big a deal to most of us. Considering the popularity of Instagram, Flickr and other photo-sharing sites on the internet, it happens millions of times a day.

But imagine that you're getting your photo taken for the first time. Think about how excited you'd be. Now, imagine that it's a professional photographer that's taking the photo. And you're getting your hair done. And makeup. How excited are you? Pretty pumped up, right?

Join me below the jump for the story of a movement that I'm proud to be part of.

When I volunteer for stuff, it's tends to be a big event. I've diaried previously about one such effort... My Time at the KC 2-day Free Clinic

It's not that I can't do small stuff. I just want to give my time and/or talent to groups that will benefit from it. In other words, I don't want to be the one who screws up everything.

Yesterday, I was one of the volunteer photographers for Help-Portrait. It is an organization in its fourth year with a very simple premise. 1) Find people in need. 2) Take their portrait. 3) Print their portrait. 4) Deliver their portrait.

How big has this movement gotten in a short amount of time? Not counting the photos taken yesterday, 16,488 photographers and 23,984 volunteers have given away 201,367 portraits at 1,720 locations in 60 countries.

The idea for this movement came from celebrity photographer Jeremy Cowart. He thought he'd just get some friends together and give people their portraits as a way to give back to the community and a cool reason to hang out. He tweeted about it and didn't think anything of it. But then other photographers began responding, "Hey, if you do this again, let me know..."

Here in Kansas City, we had two locations. I was at Big Brothers-Big Sisters of Greater Kansas City. The other was at Ronald McDonald House next to Children's Mercy Hospital.

We set up lights and backdrops. We had volunteers from Paul Mitchell the School ready to do hair and makeup. We had people ready to edit and print the photos and also provide the files on a CD.

You'll notice that there are no pictures in this diary. That's because this isn't about us, the photographers... It's about making our subjects feel special for a day and giving them something they'll treasure. It's not about showing off our lighting or our skills as photographers. It's about giving something back to the community.

Now, that's not to say that I didn't get anything out of it. Each group I photographed printed out a photo that I was in with them and "autographed" it. The one that made me tear up a little was the one where the young girl in the photo called me the funniest person she'd ever met.

What I'd like you to do is to go to the Help-Portrait website and watch the videos there, or go to YouTube and search for Help-Portrait videos. Some of the stories there will make you cry, I'd almost guarantee it.

The event director for KC (Kevin Gibson) got to go up to the NICU at Children's Mercy Hospital. He met a woman who was from Nigeria. She'd had her twins three months early while she was here visiting her sister, who attends K-State. She stayed here for the first six months of their lives, but she could only take one of them with her when she had to go home when her visa ran out. After waiting five months, she got back in town Thursday and Kevin got to give them their portrait yesterday.

While you're at the HP website, I'd also like you to find an event in your area and sign up to help next year. You don't need to know anything about photography. We need people to do hair and makeup. We need people to greet these families or groups at the door when they arrive. Some groups have arts and crafts or games to keep kids occupied while they're waiting for something.

If there's no event in your area, start one. You don't have to have a fancy pro camera or the best photo printer. Use a point-and-shoot and take the files to Walgreen's to get them printed. You'd be amazed at how simple it is to make someone feel special and watch as their face just lights up. As long as it's motivated by love, it'll be fine. :)

I'm already looking forward to 12/7/13. In fact, some people in our group want to do this more than once a year, so we might try something in the spring. Possibly outdoors, if the KC weather cooperates. It'll be fun, though. :)

Mon Dec 10, 2012 at 7:36 AM PT: sees new tag Rec list? Really? Me? Thanks, guys... That's a first for me. :D

Originally posted to KCBearcat on Sun Dec 09, 2012 at 10:37 AM PST.

Also republished by Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Recommended (7+ / 0-)

    What a great idea! Love it!

  •  Thanks for this. So glad it didn't turn out to be (0+ / 0-)

    what I first expected.
    Yesterday the Cincinnati Bearcats got a new football head coach.
    Same guy who told the Texas Tech AD he was a 100% Red Raider after the Baylor game.
    If you're a U-Cincy fan, watch out. That's all I gotta say, except this guy is every bit as sincere and trustworthy as David McWilliams before him.

    LBJ, Lady Bird, Anne Richards, Barbara Jordan, Sully Sullenberger, Ike, Drew Brees, Molly Ivins --Texas is no Bush league! -7.50,-5.59

    by BlackSheep1 on Sun Dec 09, 2012 at 05:33:36 PM PST

  •  Simple little things (13+ / 0-)

    Things most of us take for granted...amazing that such a presumably small thing can be a major deal to a lot of folks who would never get a chance to do something like this otherwise. But I have a fairly good idea of what it might mean to them.

    I grew up mostly rural and mostly just getting by (and sometimes not really getting by), and remember being worried about participating in school picture days, knowing we probably couldn't afford the prints, and didn't have nice outfits for the occasion.  You feel singled out, different...not a good feeling. Something like this picture day would have felt like winning the lottery, or being in a movie.

    It's hard to understand the thousand tiny ways that not having money for more than the absolute basics---like, subsistence basics, food and bars of soap and such, not store-brand luxury items, meals in restaurants, or money to cover non-subsidized activities that most folks factor into their basic standard of living---can impact the way a person feels growing up, or how a parent feels about providing for their family.

    Most of us don't even blink when faced with the minor fees that crop up here and there, and we might complain about how big our Christmas bills are or the outrageous cost of school clothes. We don't, most of us, have to have hard conversations about not being able to afford fees for basic classroom stuff like field trips, required gym uniforms and shoes, or coming up with a reason to beg off of donating items to school bake sales or fundraisers, because there's no money for it. I've lived in towns where no kid in town has ever had their picture taken with a Mall Santa, or gone to a portrait studio with their family.

    This is a really great project. I bet you made some people very, very happy.

    "When did it fall apart? Sometime in the '80s / When the great and the good gave way to the greedy and the mean." - Billy Bragg

    by Vacationland on Sun Dec 09, 2012 at 05:54:05 PM PST

    •  i wish i could rec this comment ^^^ again. (7+ / 0-)

      my parents sacrificed to buy a school photo.  for many years of my childhood that's the only photo to document it.  

      the first 'real portrait' i ever sat for was when i was on my own, in my twenties.  i had no experience.  no idea what to expect.  the photographer asked how many changes i'd brought with me.  i didn't understand what he meant.  he said, 'changes of clothes'.  hmm...you mean you can get your picture taken in different outfits?  he also had different 'sets', some of them outside!  who knew that you could get your picture taken against so many backdrops and in so many different surroundings?  

      all my photos were taken with the same pair of bluejeans and blue sweater, but boy was i proud to give them to my parents!

      the portraits that KCBearcat and his friends are taking could be the only photo documentation of entire lives.  such treasures!  it's a great project and i thank all those who are involved.

      "The Republican party primarily exists to represent the interests of business elites in the political sphere and redistribute power and resources to the wealthy. Its enduring values beyond that end have always been up for grabs." Gary Younge

      by politik on Mon Dec 10, 2012 at 05:22:37 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  This, (6+ / 0-)

      a thousand times this.  We rarely bought school photos in my family because while my mom sacrificed to get us into good public schools, she couldn't afford the packages they offered to purchase any of the pictures.  She grew up with a mother who survived WWII in England as a little girl, and a father who was a military man who believed in taking care of yourself and relying on no one, so all those years we may have qualified for some kind of assistance, my mom was determined to not use it.  Buying school photos on the rare years that we did was HUGE.  And every year we didn't, on the day the photos were delivered to students, all my friends had them and I didn't have any.  And as a kid it makes you feel awkward, makes you feel unwelcome.  Hell, even some of the teachers looked at you sideways because you didn't buy a picture.  It never occurred to them that some of us might not be capable of purchasing a picture package.  My mom also hid our "poorness" very well; she took good care of our clothes, and we were very disciplined to treat the things that we owned well; we were well behaved at school, in public, at friends' houses; and we were smart and got good grades, despite no rewards for doing so.  And my mom cooked, every day, and we always had good meals and she made us eat our vegetables (or in my case, she made me eat my meat; I kinda hated meat as a kid).

      I think if someone came along when I was a kid, and wanted to dress me up and take a portrait, I'd have balled my eyes out.  It kind of chokes me up now thinking about it, because it's so awesome and it means SO MUCH to kids who are in the shoes I was in.

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