The 2011 HELP-PORTRAIT season has now officially started and since I am super excited I decided to re-post this article which I had published on a different blog earlier in the year.
Last year´s event was such an amazing (and life changing) experience for me and I am so looking forward to doing it again. If you don´t know what I am talking about, go and check it out here. AND COME AND JOIN US! I promise you will not regret it.
Even if at this stage, you don´t have a camera, don´t believe your photography is what you think is needed to be a photographer for HELP PORTRAIT, leave all those doubts behind and just join us. Everything else will fall into place. Take my word for it.
I had heard about the project already in 2009 (the first year it launched here in South Africa) but for whatever reason missed the whole thing. Last year was a really crazy year for me, so, again, I missed the launch of the project but managed to sign up 2 weeks late. In order to try and make up for lost time, I signed up for every event I could possibly make time for. My business had quietened down towards year end by then and I was able to go on 8 different shoots. I was not REALLY sure what I signed up for, having missed the launch and so not having a proper introduction to the project. But did I regret it? Au contraire!!!! It was the best thing I had done in years. Firstly, I met up with a lot of different, yet like-minded people, and totally love that about this project. And of course, I got to take photographs, of so many different people in so many different circumstances. This was truly humbling. One of the first shoots I had signed up for was at the Hope School – a school for children with multiple disabilities. I was a little apprehensive as I have never photographed portraits of that nature but it turned out an amazing experience. The children were so friendly and happy to smile and loved being photographed. I could sense it made their day different and gave them something special. This was when I realised how wonderful this project really is. But this was only the beginning.
I managed to organise a few small shoots during “free week” in some informal settlements around Soweto. I am involved with an orphanage there and do a lot of work with them, so the minute I heard that we had the opportunity to appoint a shoot ourselves I thought of all the people out there who probably never had their picture taken, and probably don´t have photographs of themselves, their kids, their mothers or other relatives they live with. I was overwhelmed by the response of the people. I thought it would be difficult to organise the return of the printed portraits and to make sure that every single one of the photographs found their way back to their life size counterpart. It is still quite amazing to me – but we did it. We managed to give all those photographs back to the people. As soon as they saw my car coming back the second time, the kids started running and spreading the word that the photographs were here. Such is the power of a portrait!
My experience did not end here. The memory that stands out the most for me and which I will look back on for a long time to come was a last minute shoot through the streets of Yeoville. Apart from many other things that happened that day I met a woman with her teenage daughter and they were over the moon when we asked them if they wanted to have their photograph taken and had explained our mission to them. I photographed her and her daughter and when I showed them the portrait on the back of my camera already they were so excited and grateful, the mother, who was selling things on the side of the road, gave me a necklace from her shop as a thank you.
I was so touched that I couldn´t wait to go back to Yeoville to hand over the prints the following weekend. When I saw them and handed them their portraits the daughter started crying and fell into my arms and gave me the longest hug… the mother told me, when taking her portrait, that she had just received her Christmas present. I had to really tell myself to keep it together I was so moved by what was happening around me.
I have to admit that I had underestimated the impact a photograph can have. Thank you, Help-Portrait, for giving me the opportunity to experience these and many other special moments which, in my mind, make life worth living.
Here´s to photographs, portraits and magic!