The Herald Bulletin

December 28, 2013

Photos for Christmas

Volunteers take professional portraits for Anderson residents

By Zach Osowski The Herald Bulletin
The Herald Bulletin

---- — ANDERSON — A picture is worth 1,000 words, but sometimes a picture can have a powerful impact on a person’s life as well.

That’s what photography enthusiasts were doing at The Anderson Center for the Arts earlier this month, they were taking professional portraits of people. People who couldn’t afford to spend money on a photo. People who wanted something to send family members for the holidays.

The photographers were there as part of Anderson’s first-ever Help Portrait Program. The program is an international event started in 2006 when a photographer thought less fortunate people could use a professional portrait to raise their self-esteem around the Christmas season.

Although the Anderson event occurred a week after the main Help Portrait event, Bert Happel, chairman of the event, said he thought it was still a great success.

Happel said they did over 20 sessions during the event, some of them individual people and some of them families, all looking for a memory they couldn’t afford.

“It is hard to guess whether we changed any lives today,” Happel said. “But we certainly impacted a number of them.”

Most of the photographers and assistants were volunteers from the Killbuck Photo Guild, others were family members or photographers who heard about the event through Facebook.

The joy the photographers had just from taking pictures was obvious and infectious.

“They did a great job with my girls,” Ron Murphy said while waiting for his family’s portrait to print. “They made them relax and have a good time. Made them very photogenic.”

Murphy heard about the event through Man for Man and decided to bring his wife and three daughters for a Christmas picture. He said they are planning on sending the photo to his parents and decided to come because he had heard good things about the program.

"They were well spoken of," he said. "And we wanted a current photo of our family. This is not something we could have done on our own."

Similar stories continued to come in as the day went on. Two specific appointments stuck out in Happel’s mind from the 20 to 25 groups of people that came in. The first was a woman who brought in her 13-month-old daughter. She said it was the first portrait for her little girl.

Happel also remembered a man who came in for a portrait he could give to his two sons so they would always have a memory of him.

Despite the bad weather and first year of the program, Happel said he was pleased with the number of people that came. He was also very grateful for all of the volunteers who came to take pictures and donated their time and equipment to make a lasting memory for less fortunate people.

The participants were given three different scenes they could choose from for their photo. One was a professional background for all occasions and two of them were Christmas themed, with a tree background and a winter wonderland scene.

Stone and his family, with his daughters Dakota, Bella and Madison, chose the winter wonderland theme.

"They got excited when they saw that one," Murphy smiled.

Steve Margison was one of the volunteers from the Killbuck Photo Guild taking pictures throughout the day. He was in charge of the non-Christmas scene and said he didn't get a lot of visitors because the event came too close to the holiday.

He did get one visitor who stuck in his mind though. A young man came dressed in a suit for a professional looking portrait. He said his plan was to give the photo to his parents as a Christmas present.

"He was so excited," Margison said. "You could tell it meant a lot to him."

That type of reaction is what the Help Portrait Program is all about. A photo can be a simple thing but it can also mean the world to those who can't afford one.

Follow Zach Osowski on Twitter @Osowski_THB, or call 640-4847.