If you haven’t heard of the Help-Portrait movement, the idea is pretty simple: photographers and other volunteers get together and donate time and resources to provide portraits to those who can’t afford them. Its founder, Jeremy Cowart just announced that the non-profit organization that runs Help-Portrait is dissolving, but he wants the movement to live on.
For the past few years, I’ve been one of the lead organizers of our local Help-Portrait event here in Northwest Arkansas. We typically do two events a year: a family portrait event in December on the global Help-Portrait date, as well as a high school senior portrait event in the spring. Though the senior event is smaller, the family event is big, with a hot lunch served, activities for the kids, and about 100 families walking away with a CD of portraits, print-release, and a 5x7” print in a frame. It’s tough wrangling photographers away from weddings on a Saturday, but they always say it’s worth it.
So, I was a little disappointed when I read this letter from Jeremy Cowart that details why the national Help-Portrait organization is going to be shutting its doors.
Here’s an excerpt:
But for all of the organizing that happens for it each year, it’s been the movement that’s fueled Help-Portrait, not the nonprofit.
YOU, the volunteers, the directors, the photographers, and the makeup artists have driven this event to become what it is today.
Because of that, after this year’s event, we are shutting down the official nonprofit known as Help-Portrait, Inc.
What I’ve come to realize is that not only is the nonprofit unnecessary, but raising money to fund its existence takes away from the actual events where others can be helped.
Help-Portrait is by no means over. It will continue to live on as long as there are photographers and volunteers who want to continue to give back with what they’ve been given — the ability to see people for who they are and to give them a symbol of their worth and dignity — a printed portrait.
Thank you for taking a simple idea and bringing it to life. Lives around the world have been touched and changed because of your involvement and will continue to be as long as you allow it.
While I’m disappointed that the organization is shutting down, I have no intentions of stopping organizing our local event, and I hope you don't either. The people who come and benefit from it – mostly recruited from local community meals events, homeless shelters, and other places where the people who need our help the most tend to find themselves – are always blown away by the kindness shown to them by others at Help-Portrait. They aren’t looked down upon for being down on their luck but photographed and made to feel like they still matter. I feel like it's too good of a mission to end entirely.