How Photographers are Giving Back this Holiday Season

How Photographers are Giving Back this Holiday Season

During the holiday season it’s easy to get caught up in the hype of the latest toy, countless hours spent shopping and wrapping and shopping and wrapping, not to mention the numerous heated encounters your bound to have in over-crowded mall parking lots across the country and around the globe. But it’s also a great opportunity to give back.

Over the next 6 weeks (yes there are only 6 weeks left in 2010), we’d like to highlight some of the worthy organizations that are using their lenses and photographic skills to do good and give back in their communities, and beyond.


Founded by photographer Jeremy Cowart, Help-Portrait is a movement of photographers, makeup artists and volunteers who come together to give, not take, pictures of those who are less fortunate. Help-Portrait’s mission is to equip, connect and mobilize volunteer
photographers around the country and the world, giving them the means to give back through their photography.

Here’s a sweet video explaining how it works:


Simple right?

We recently caught up with founder Jeremy Cowart to talk about Help-Portrait get the details on what they’ve got planned for this year’s portrait event happening on Dec 04.

Q: Where did the idea and the motivation to put this together come from?
Jeremy: As a photographer, I’ve come to realize that photography can help restore a sense of humanity and dignity in its subjects, and that photography can break down barriers. I planned the first Help-Portrait day as a way to equip and mobilize the global photography community to give back. It’s not about free photography; it’s about using photography as a catalyst for community.



image courtesy of HELP-Portrait

Q: How many photographers have contributed to Help-portrait projects to date?

Jeremy: Last year we had 3,400 photographers and 5,000 volunteers in 42 countries at 543 locations who gave away over 41,000 portraits. I can’t wait to hear how it goes this year. We’re encouraging event organizers to report their numbers this year at this link after the event: This is key to the Help-Portrait story!

Q: How many people does it take to keep Help-Portrait up and running, what is the size of your staff?

Jeremy: We have an all-volunteer staff of nine people. It is seriously an all-star cast. I am so very thankful for their tireless work on Help-Portrait. This is obviously a labor of love for all of us and the hundreds of individual event organizers in cities across the globe.


image courtesy of HELP-Portrait

Q: How do you raise money for your projects?

Jeremy: Every event raises money in different ways. Some events don’t need to raise any money. It just depends on so many factors… the amount of subjects being photographed vs. the amount of photographers available, the amount of resources the photographers have access to, etc. We’ve heard of many different ways that photographers have raised money for their local events and are very encouraged by local businesses across the globe contributing to our cause!

Q: How can people contribute beyond their time and their photographic expertise?

Jeremy: Help-Portrait events need tons of volunteers in a variety of positions from the first planning meeting to the actual event. Greeters to welcome people, stylists, someone to play music and serve food. People to plan activities to entertain young children. A florist to make the space lovely and give donated flowers to the guests. Runners for everything in between. If you can spare the day, your local Help-Portrait event can use you in some capacity.

Q: Are there other things you are in need of that people could donate?

Jeremy: We need lighting gear, laptops, printers, but also anything that would meet the needs of the people you’re photographing: clothes, food, haircuts, flowers, picture frames…. The list goes on.

“Poverty steals a lot of things, like your home and car and food, but it also steals something on the inside. Help-Portrait feeds that something on the inside.”  — Annie Downs, Help-Portrait Events Coordinator


image courtesy of HELP-Portrait

Q: Your community has more than 14k members that form groups in their local area.
What are some of the ways people get involved in their local chapters and what kinds of projects have come out of these local groups?
Jeremy: Well, you can join your local group by searching our Help-Portrait Community website ( and contacting the event organizers. Most events have a form you can fill out that determines your area of interest for the event.

Q: What does the future of Help-Portrait look like?

Jeremy: We’re not quite sure yet. The only thing that’s for sure is our desire to continue connecting photographers to people in need and connecting photographers to other photographers. That’s what we’re all about.


image courtesy of HELP-Portrait

This year Help-Portrait will take place on (or around) 04 December 2010. Photographers around the world will be grabbing their cameras, finding people in need and making a difference with their photographs. 

To find out how to get involved with Help-Portrait visit their website. In addition to photographic services, you can also learn more about offering materials, resources or making a donation to Help-Portrait here.

If you have a charity or organization that is using photography (or not) to give back this holiday season, share a link and a brief description in the comments below and help spread the word.

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