a picture perfect day...

This past weekend, I volunteered for an annual event called HELP-PORTRAIT.  This was my second year to be a part of this event, and once again, it has left me speechless.  HELP-PORTRAIT was started about 4 years ago by a photographer in Nashville, TN who wanted to be able to make a difference with his camera.  As a photographer, we recognize that professional photos can be expensive... sometimes really expensive... but we also believe in the power and worth of a captured image.  HELP-PORTRAIT was designed so that photographers aren't just "taking" photos, but rather, "giving" them.  It's such an awesome, yet very simple, concept.

There is so much magic wrapped up in this day... from the dozens of volunteers... to the massive amount of camera equipment... to the hair & make-up... to the food donations... to the news cameras... to the live music... to the many photographers... and to the stories.  No doubt, it's the stories that make this day completely worth it.  The people and stories that walked through the door on Saturday will forever touch my heart.

Here are a few of my favorite moments from this year's event...

1) The photographers.  It can be a little intimidating at first... you walk in with your camera... secretly wondering how your equipment stacks up to the photographer next to you... knowing that you've seen so-and-so's work... all while wondering if you can keep up with the tech-savvy lighting-gurus... but on this day, we are anything but competition... we are family.  Everyone is there with the same purpose... the same desire... and it was such a joy to work with such an amazing group of people.

2) The volunteers.  It takes more than "just photographers" to pull off an event like this... and man, did we have an awesome group of volunteers.  So many people were willing to help "wherever needed."  We had photographers greeting people at the door... hair stylists inviting people straight off the streets... editing masterminds preparing lunch... you name it, someone did it.  But the best part was to see how excited volunteers/photographers got when we prepared the finished product.  That's a little happy dance in the photo above:)

3) The kiddos.  The little ones certainly know how to work the camera!  This cutie-patootie was thrilled to have her hair and make-up done and twirl for us in her sparkly red dress.  It was so funny to see all of the photographers swarm around all the adorable kids that walked in the door.  Seriously... talk about paparazzi.  There were probably 10 other photographers capturing this moment... I kid you not.

4) The actual photos.  Something magical happened when we handed that printed image over to somebody.  I can't quite explain it.  If you're like me, you take hundreds of photos... of your kids... your blog projects... your food... and you probably have a few of yourself too... it's something I definitely take for granted.  Many of the people that visited us on Saturday haven't had a picture of themselves made in years... or for some, ever.  The smiles and tears that came when we handed over some of these photos were beyond words. 

5) The music.  We had an awesome bluegrass band that came for the entire event.  They were so good! Many people that came to have their photo taken ended up staying for another hour or so, just to enjoy the music.  It was such a fun group... they even let some of the volunteers jump in on a few songs:)

6) The love.  There was a pretty big marriage conference happening on the same day as our event in a church just around the corner.  We were able to invite couples from the conference to have their photos made as well... It was so awesome to see so many beautiful couples walk through the door, and we considered it a huge privilege to be able to capture this special weekend for them.

7) The event coordinator.  Aka, my awesome next-door-neighbor:)  My neighbor Connie is the workhorse that has made this event happen in Louisville the past 2 years.  I remember standing on my front porch with Connie right after we moved in... once she realized I was a photographer too, she told me about her desire to make HELP-PORTRAIT happen in Louisville... and sure enough... she made it happen.  

8) The stylists.  The hair and make-up stylists did a phenomenal job... they gave haircuts... applied make-up... curled and straightened hair... they made each and every person feel like a million bucks... not only with their talented hands, but with their kind words of affirmation.  They showed up early and stayed late... they eagerly listened to story after story... all while making each individual feel like a celebrity.  Such a special group of men and women.

9) The transformations.  It was so neat to see people's appearances be transformed (thanks to hair and make-up) but more than that, it was amazing to see their very stature transform.  Everyone that walked in the door left feeling valued and respected.  This beautiful couple walked over after hearing about HELP-PORTRAIT at a nearby bus stop.  The wife had been practically bed-ridden for the past 4 years, and this was only the second day that she had felt good enough to get out of the house.  They told me they have been married for over 10 years, but haven't had a professional photo taken since their wedding day.  What an amazing privilege to be able to photograph this sweet couple.

10) The stories.  Like I said before... it's the stories that get me... every.single.time.  John was the very first person that walked in the door on Saturday.  He told us that this was the first photo he has had taken in 20 years.  We asked him what he was going to do with his picture... he smiled and said that he was going to send it to his parents... whom he hasn't seen in 20 years.  It's amazing to me to see how such a simple piece of paper can provide dignity, restore lost relationships, and capture memories.

I'm so grateful that I was able to play a small role in this special event.  The people and stories will live in my heart forever.  All in all... a picture perfect day:)

To learn more about HELP-PORTRAIT, go here.  To read about last year's Louisville event, go here.  To see a quick (less than 2 minutes) news clip video about this year's Louisville event, go here.

Linking up with Angie at Many Little Blessings...
and Lena at Lena B, Actually...