On Saturday December 8, I participated in Help-Portrait Newmarket. It’s a local incarnation of what’s becoming a global trend…and it felt good to be a part of it.
Help-Portrait was started by renowned photographer Jeremy Cowart as a way to give people in need in his local community – who might otherwise not have the opportunity – a chance to have a professional photoshoot done, complete with hair, makeup and studio lights. And it’s all for free.
Needless to say, it’s an idea that has quickly caught on with photographers around the world who are looking for a way to give back to the community, and this year, the annual event had a new member city with Newmarket coming on board. The event was held at the Newmarket Community Centre and Lions Club, and was organized by Danielle Koren, a professional photographer and designer who also works with the Newmarket Chamber of Commerce.
Her idea to do Help-Portrait in Newmarket came to life when she received a $1000 grant from the Awesome Foundation in Newmarket, a group that has been described as “micro-genius grants for flashes of micro-brilliance”, and whose mission is to support great ideas, one $1000 grant at a time.
“The Awesome Foundation Newmarket is a group looking to provide hassle-free grants to those with ideas to make Newmarket a more prosperous community,” says Koren. “The foundation is not a charity, it’s an informal group providing money to make good things happen in Newmarket. Anyone who has an idea that promotes education, employment or community involvement for those under 30 years of age in can apply. Each month $1,000 is awarded, no strings attached, to make one of these ideas a reality.”
After that it was simply a matter of getting people on board, but that did not present a problem either.
“I approached people I thought who [would] like be involved. I was also approached by acquaintances – individuals who were as passionate about the idea as I was,” says Koren.
She also approached organizations she knew, such as corporate sponsors like Tim Hortons. Having booked the two halls for the event back in February, she later wrote a letter asking if they could donate the facility.
All told, at the end of the day, the event featured the time and talent of 11 photographers, including yours truly, (full list at the bottom), half a dozen makeup artists and as many hair stylists, and a dedicated cadre of volunteers providing invaluable help in keeping things moving along smoothly and working as photo assistants.
Other help came in the form of food for the event – snacks, pastries, sandwiches, fruits, coffee and hot chocolate – provided by Tim Hortons Newmarket, Redcrest Cardinal Golf Club, and O’Malley’s Catering & Rentals.
And then, the people.
Community residents came to the hall in a steady flow throughout the day (the event was scheduled from 10am to 5pm). We had families, individuals, people dressed up to the nines and others in comfy casuals, children, adults, seniors, teens…you name it.
From formal, posed portraits to fun-filled, laughter-inducing shots, everyone who stepped in front of the camera seemed to enjoy it as much as those of us behind the lens.
The best was this one adorable baby who, I’m convinced, was born to be photographed…and boy, did he know it! Other infants were, naturally, a little restless and had to be coaxed into looking at the camera or smiling, but he was grinning ear to ear, playing where he sat, and almost as if he knew, he would change poses every few minutes. Now that was the definition of a little charmer!
As each photo session concluded, we photographers directed our subjects towards the printers at the back of the room, where more wonderful volunteers would take our memory cards (of course, we all had interchangeable spares!) and then go through the images with our clients who would select the ones they liked the most.
Then they were each given three 5″x7″ prints with card-stock frames of their favourite images of themselves, their families and friends there with them, to take home as mementos of the day, and to hang on the wall with pride.
It was a great day for me for many reasons, but the biggest two were these: the feeling of camaraderie between me and the other photographers, some amazingly talented and friendly people I’m ridiculously glad to have met, and the two women who came up to me separately to tell me that the pictures I shot of them and their children were among the best ones they’d ever taken.
At the end, taking down the lights and packing away equipment, I had to go up to Danielle just to thank her for letting me be a part of Help-Portrait Newmarket, and to put my name down in advance for next year. Because, despite the two and a half hour trip up from Toronto to Newmarket and back, it was definitely worth making just to have been a part of something this special!
The Other Photographers
Jennifer Brien, Jennifer Brien Photography
Ronnie Charles, Khamp Media
Gary Collier, Collier Photo
Sheldon Isaac, Sheldon Isaac Images
Danielle Koren, Improvance Inc.
Rhonda McNeill, Catch the Spirit Photography
Navy Nhum, Navy Nhum Photography
Amanda Adams, Freelncer Photography
Hair and Makeup