How to help-portrait is finding a new way to celebrate community.
While most photographers are preoccupied with building a port- folio and asking themselves, “Who do I want to take pictures of?” celebrity photographer Jeremy Cowart challenges them to ask, “Who can I give a picture to?”
Cowart started Help-Portrait in 2009, an event that drew 10,000 photographers, makeup artists and volunteers. Altogether, they took approximately 42,000 portraits for homeless citizens, single mothers and their children, former inmates starting over and other mem- bers of the community who were lonely, needy or otherwise long- ing to feel special and celebrated. This past holiday season, nearly 600 groups around the world participated in the second annual Help-Portrait.
The event offers the opportunity to take pictures for those who have previously never been photographed. While it may seem trivial, Cowart can attest to the value of this service. At the Seattle location for the 2010 Help-Portrait, he was able to bond with the subjects of his photos—one of whom requested an image of her deceased husband be added into what would be their first family photo. “I spent a big part of the day … sitting down with people and hearing their stories,” Cowart says. “It’s just powerful stuff. Help-Portrait goes way beyond photography.”