Help Portrait Denton 2015

Help-Portrait Denton 2015 Group Photo
All the volunteers who help make the day happen

So, this “thing” happened the other day. A “thing” called “Help-Portrait”. Actually, our “thing” is called “Help-Portrait Denton“. It’s a pretty cool “thing”, too. We get to make photographs (SCORE!) of people in need (BONUS!) and give the photographs to the people (TEARS OF JOY!). How cool is that?

From the main Help-Portrait organization, here’s the official description:

Help-Portrait is a global movement of photographers, hairstylists and makeup artists using their time, tools and expertise to give back to those in need.

  1. Find someone in need
  2. Take their picture
  3. Print their picture
  4. Deliver their picture

Seems pretty straightforward and simple, right? Get an iPhone, snap a shot, print via AirPrint to the printer, and off you go, right? Not hardly! While a good photographer can absolutely make decent photographs on an iPhone, our goal in Help-Portrait is to deliver high-quality, professionally created photographs. Something the clients would be proud of and want to hang on to, or maybe send duplicates to family or friends. Something that won’t get lost in a Facebook album or USB thumb drive. We strive to create a studio-based experience for the clients, as you can see:

Photograph of 2 different photographer stations
Each photographer has a dedicated setup

The photographers can be pretty intense, too. Here, Thorpe is busily checking messages, albeit in a very casual manner. And below are Gary and Ahna strategizing about how to get the best poses and expressions. Okay, that last bit was made up, because I was not eavesdropping! But it could totally have been that! They’re pretty cool folks who care about their clients. 🙂

Photographers of Help-Portrait: Denton
Photographers of Help-Portrait: Denton

We do arrange for food for the clients, too. It’s donated by local establishments. The donuts from Hypnotic Donuts were pretty well demolished early on (of course they were! They were HYPNOTIC, for heaven’s sake!). There were sandwiches from Subway, and Dickies. Flats of bottled water and soda, and plenty of chips! I had to stay away from the table with donuts to avoid eating them all, so I grabbed a shot of the chips. Just as a teaser; if you volunteer next year, you can marvel at the full spread! 😉

Photograph of variety packs of chips and bottled water
Many local businesses donated to help provide a bit of food for our clients

We did have a dedicated editing and printing station this year, too. Here’s one of the Denton organizers, Shaina, diligently retouching (lightly) and printing photographs for a client. We want the clients to leave with photographs in hand, so we print on site. We tend to scrounge for the best photo printers, and got pretty lucky this year. My own printer didn’t come in until after the event due to UPS taking a siesta in transit. Grr. Some of the donations help ensure we have enough ink for printing; it can be $120 up to over $200 to replace all the ink cartridges in a high-quality photo printer. If you can help out next year…

Shaina retouches and prints
Photographer Shaina of 35Denton fame edits and prints with great care

My lovely wife roamed around a bit and got some behind-the-scenes shots of your favorite photographer in action. 😀 (okay, maybe not your favorite, but hopefully her favorite!) Setting up a portable studio is no walk in the park, I tell you what! My love wife pitched right in and assisted with gusto! Thanks, babe! Once the stations are set up, it’s time for making photographs and getting them ready for the printer! Yup, we do it all on site!

Setting Up and Editing
Creating the stations, the obligatory selfie, and editing a client’s photographs. Photograph courtesy Angela Vanecek

And here’s a look at the gym after we’re all set up. The food station (arguably the most important station, as it had Hypnotic donuts! 😉 ) is behind us. Many thanks to Calhoun Middle School for letting us use their gym for this endeavor!

Panorama of the Gym
From the Station A on the left to the Makeup and Hair on the right, we’re all ready to go!
Photograph courtesy of Angela Vanecek

I’d love to show some of the client photographs from our Help-Portrait: Denton events, but we do like to provide them guaranteed privacy. Lots of people in a variety of life situations, and they all deserve their dignity and, in some cases, safety. A woman fleeing with her children from an abusive partner may lose much of what she had, including photographs. As a community we all pitch in to organizations such as Denton County Friends of the Family, but those organizations often can’t replace lost details of a life left behind. Many of us take these things for granted, but when you see a young mother silently weeping over a beautiful photograph of her child, it really drives home just how much those little things really do matter. If you know of an organization that works with people in need, please let us know! We have a small number we work with now, but would love to include more of the area’s people in this effort.

The volunteers deserve a ton of recognition! From makeup and hair to photographers to docents who walk clients through each stage of the shoot, these folks are invaluable in creating a fun, comfortable, and memorable experience for the clients. As photographers, we also love making portraits of the volunteers. These are some of the folks that ran through my station.

Portraits of Thorpe and Sara
Thorpe (Left) a fellow photographer, and Sara (right), one of the founders of Help-Portrait: Denton
Portraits of Angela (left) and Shannon and Woody (Right)
Angela, my lovely assistant and wife (Left), and Shannon and Woody (right)
Portraits of Janet (Left) and Tiffany (Right)
Makeup Artist Janet (left) and docent Tiffany (right) helped the day move along beautifully

Seeing photographs float by on Facebook or Twitter is all well and good, and works well enough for snapshots of supper or that pretty sunset or your favorite fur baby being silly. But that’s the thing: these photographs float by, and often are buried and forgotten. A print will hang on your wall, or sit in a frame on your desk, or be tucked into your planner (if you still have one). I’m a firm believer in prints; nothing is quite as poignant as lightly brushing fingertips over a loved one’s face in a printed photograph. Besides, if you did that on your phone, you’d swipe the photograph away! When you’ve lost everything, a photograph can be so much.

Help-Portrait: Denton will be back next year, on December 3rd. Keep an eye on the Help-Portrait Denton Facebook Page. The call for volunteers will go out August–September-ish in 2016. This is a great opportunity to help add so brightness to somebody’s life, to make somebody’s day. Photographs are so pervasive nowadays that we often don’t think about them. Consider this: what would your life be like with no photographs in it?