It’s Guest Blog Wednesday featuring Annie Downs of Help-Portrait!

My name is Annie Downs. I am the Events Coordinator for Help-Portrait. Jeremy does the challenging work- he takes the portraits. I do the easy part- I get to tell you about it.

It seems that most nonprofit organizations need two things: money and volunteers. If they need money, they probably don’t need volunteers; they are paying for people to do the good works around the world. If they need volunteers, they probably don’t need as much money. (But they still need money.)

For those in creative professions – writers, actors, photographers, musicians, and the like, money isn’t always easy to come by. Freelancers are struggling more and more, and yet the heart to give is part of what feeds the creative nature.

If you are one of these, you might look at the other option – volunteering. There are many great nonprofit organizations that love to see hands that are ready to help – to build, to feed, to clothe. And without having much skill, you can make a significant impact.

Giving in any arena is great, but there is something really unique and special about giving within your gifting, about identifying the things you are good at, the things you do for a living, and finding a way to donate within that field. It’s not often that opportunity arises, unless you are a carpenter or a cook.

Photographers are an interesting bunch. They are competitive, yet team players. They are quiet when working, but loud when communicating. They are on the frontlines of technology and media, and they are temperamental artists. They are, at the core, a collection of people who hold the camera in one hand and their heart in the other.

In 2008, one of your own, Jeremy Cowart, found a way to use his skill as a photographer to give back to the community. And there began Help-Portrait – in a gym in East Nashville one cold Saturday morning in December.

The next fall, a tidal wave response occurred when a simple video about Help Portrait was posted here at Scott’s blog. Maybe for the first time, the photography community was given a chance to unite and give back where they excel – with their hearts and their cameras.

Whereas 2008 was a small event in Nashville, Tennessee, 2009 was a worldwide event occurring in more than 40 countries involving almost 4,000 photographers. In any other profession, that type of unity, birthed simply via social media, would be followed by massive personal praise from those involved.

And rightly so.

But you photographers, you just do the work. You find the subjects in need, shoot the portrait, print the portrait, give back and sleep peacefully that night. You don’t ask for thanks or praise or hugs or money. Yes, there was national news coverage in 2009, but nothing compared to the stories you lived. We read them. Every last one. We cried at the power of your Help-Portrait moments. And there were thousands more that we never heard.

The photographs taken were by amateurs and professionals. With lighting or natural. Indoors and outside. The subjects were children, adults, homeless, sick, broken, poor, sad, wounded. Those in need were cared for and those doing the photography were changed forever.

And here we are, Help-Portrait 2010 right around the corner (Saturday, 4 December 2010). The potential is limitless. Events are being planned right now all over the world, from New York City to Kenya to Brazil to Korea.

You can still be involved. Just head to the Help-Portrait community site and join – then locate the group that is in or near your city and connect so that you can be a part on December 4th. With 585 groups of people in 57 countries and 49 U.S. States already created, you will probably find a location near you. If not, start your own!

As the day approaches of our second international Help Portrait event, we just want to say thank you. This community is unlike any other that exists and you deserve to be celebrated – not only for the fine artists that you are, but for the deep kindness that you show to those in need.

May your heart always be full and your memory card always have room for one more portrait.

  1. Annie, I love to see people volunteer, I think we all have a civil duty to do it. We are doing the same as last year visiting a local assisted living place where many of the elderly there are friends. We hope to just bring a little excitement. I have been a volunteer fireman since 1975 and a volunteer coroner investigator since 1996 and I am proud to help folks in need. I think the world would be a better place if everyone would do some volunteer work.
    I’m looking forward to Sat and pray for a huge world event. Thanks for the post

    1. Hey Ken,

      Definitely agree, that the world would be a better place if everyone would do some volunteer work. It certainly makes a huge difference to the people in need, but most of all you’ll see a good change in your self.

      A great post Annie, hope things go well on Saturday.

      1. Last year my Aunt was in there and its one of the only photos we have of her in the last couple of years. She died a couple of months ago. I’m so glad we did that.

  2. I think you hit the nail on the head when you said:
    “Giving in any arena is great, but there is something really unique and special about giving within your gifting…”
    Thank you guys for started something so special (with your gifts) and I’m so excited to see it expanding! Praying things go well on Saturday.

  3. We loved it last year, with 20 photogs in Logan, UT making pictures. Unfortunately, it was also the day of a huge snow storm! Only one family out of fifteen from the Boys and Girls Club turned out for their portrait.

    We learned, and this year we are guaranteed more subjects: we’re going to the county jail! At least I know they won’t get snowed in.

    It’s enjoyable to light people’s lives this way. Plus, the spouse can hardly argue with new gear “needed” for Help Portrait, right?

  4. Just curious, and I know I could always organize my own day for this, but why not make this a “weekend” even where people who have to work on Saturdays could join in and be part of the official program. That’s my only downfall with so many special events…I’m a freelancer, but I work my “official” job on Saturdays all day long. I’d love to see this move to a two-day format so that more people could be involved.


  5. I really wish I had know about this sooner. I’m actually relatively close to Seattle and would have loved to be a part of the festivities there. Unfortunately, being an active duty service member, I need to plan around my duties. I’ll see if I can get something going here short notice, but I really hate missing out on being at the epicenter of the action.

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