Hundreds of people received free Christmas portraits for the ninth year in a row thanks to a group of volunteer photographers. The annual event focused on providing professional photos to those who would not otherwise be able to afford them, including the homeless and those struggling with abuse.
The annual event has been called Help Portrait.
"I think ultimately a photo is just so dignifying," said Jeremy Cowart, who founded Help Portrait in Nashville in 2008. "And to see not only a picture of yourself, but to see if professionally lit, with professional hair and makeup done, to see yourself look like a million bucks, and just to show people how valuable they are."
Since Cowart's inaugural event, Help Portrait has expanded to cities across the world. On the first Saturday of every December, hairstylists and makeup artists work their magic on anyone who walks into the events.
Then, professional photographers take family and individual portraits, edit the photos on site, and print them - all for free. There's even a framing station.
"I’m going to send a picture to my mom and a picture to my daughter, so she can put it up in her room and have a part of me there with her," said Cheyenne Dowell, a mother who's currently a resident at a drug recovery program. "Addiction will make you lie to yourself. It literally talks to you in your head. It’s hard to get past that when it’s all you’ve done for so long, so I’m literally learning a new way to live and I’m getting my joy back."
Dowell was a first time Help Portrait recipient and said the event made her feel seen. Those were powerful words for the man who took her photo.
"That’s why I take photography, that’s why I shoot pictures," said Daniel C. White, who often shoots humanitarian work in developing countries. "It’s amazing that there are people down the road from where we live that haven’t had their picture taken or that don’t feel seen."
You can find more information about Help Portrait online.