Help Portrait Day is an international day of giving for those who can’t otherwise afford to have special moments and loved ones documented through high-quality photos.
Martina Corbin stopped by the event, held in the common space of Santos Place on the Sand Point Housing campus, without an appointment. He came at the right moment – when there was enough time for a host of volunteers to get him seated for portraits quickly. After attending a similar event in Everett, WA, Lauren Heerschap, the organizer, worked with the Sand Point Housing staff last year to coordinate the first on-campus Help Portrait Day.
The process Lauren developed was smooth: Sand Point Housing residents checked in at the welcome desk where they received a yellow sign with their name on it. They were then ushered into a makeup and dressing room where they could receive free makeup application and products donated by Mary Kay and Thrive Causemetics, hairdressing, and nail services – as well as their pick of jewelry, scarves, and other accessories donated to the day of service. Residents went on to be seated with one of the three available volunteer photographers for several photos that were immediately passed on to a volunteer photo editor in another room.
“It was the most fun I’ve had taking photos in a long time,” Martina comments after combing through his portraits with the editor, picking out his favorite takes to later mail home to loved ones in Maryland. Having arrived in the Seattle area last March, he is still trying to get his bearings and is happy to have something to send to family to show how well he’s adjusting.
Lauren coordinated the event hoping it would build confidence in participants and bring people together in community. Several volunteer groups partnered to put it on: The Northwest Council of Camera Clubs, The Beyond Project, and The Dinner Church (sponsored by OneLife Community Church). The Northwest Council of Camera Clubs provided 33 volunteers, three of whom are professional photographers with over 30 years of experience: John Cornicello, Bruce Weber, and Richard Singleton.
“I’m a helper person,” says John, who donates time and photography skills to a variety of groups ranging from nonprofits to theaters. He volunteered at last year’s Help Portrait Day as well as other ones across the Seattle area over the last 11 years. “I do it to interact with the people. … The enjoyment is meeting all these people and seeing all their expressions, seeing them be happy no matter their situation.”
Rebecca represents The Beyond Project, applying camera-ready makeup and providing hairdressing and nail services as requested. “I was quite surprised to find out how expensive school pictures can be,” she says. “My mom shared a story with me about when we were little, and she had very little money. She would take us to JCPenney’s or Sears, and they would do a free picture, and that’s how we got our photos. So I think professional photographers donating their time is so important.” The Beyond Project exists to empower and inspire, and Rebecca does this through beauty, stating “to have someone touch you and tell you you’re special and important is quite rare.”
Raul Baron, a photo editor, expresses similar sentiments, describing the event as a simple way to foster positive engagement. He uses photography to build relationships with all kinds of people, from youth living in South Seattle to friends he makes on his travels. It’s a way to document the existence of people who don’t always have ways to do so.
Lauren says she’s enjoyed connecting with people across several organizations to put on Help Portrait Day. She served as the primary contact for both the Northwest Council of Camera Clubs and OneLife Community Church (The Dinner Church), which provided lunch and snacks for all of the volunteers. She also worked with another member of the church to coordinate a donation that covers the cost of printing the photos for the 44 participating families. The ultimate result is 265 photos that were printed and distributed to families in time for the holidays.
Special thanks to The Northwest Council of Camera Clubs, Puget Sound Camera Club, Seattle Photographic Society, The Mountaineers, Photo Center Northwest, The Beyond Project, Microsoft’s Matching Program, and The Dinner Church sponsored by OneLife Community Church.