Finally today came! I woke up early this morning, checked my gear a second time (I checked it before going to bed :P) got ready and drove to the NGO’s center. 10 AM. The sun was high and it was really hot. I met the sister in charge who took me to the common area where people gathered and introduced me. I had a big smile on my face. Unsure of what to expect yet ready for everything. Some were young others had a long history traced on their face. Several were on wheelchairs. I sat next to them and engaged conversation. One even addressed me in French (amazing fluent French). They asked me if I was working for a paper or if I was going to sell the pictures. That’s where I explained the Help Portrait concept.
A few minutes later I asked: “Who wants to have their portrait taken first?”. 🙂 To my pleasure, I had many positive answers. Only 2 out of 26 were reluctant. But I took their portraits when they were not looking. Actually, after discussing the matter with the sister she encouraged me to take their picture anyway. “If we put everybody’s picture on the wall later, they will come ask why theirs isn’t there and forget that they didn’t want their portrait be taken in the first place.” In the final half-hour I got requests! “Take a picture of my friend and me, please!”; they would pose and smile.
Two amazing hours I am not ready to forget. All had a social case. Some came and shared their story with me. I was heartbroken for the misery they had to go through in their lives but then, they expressed you how happy they were with their new big family in the center. Heartwarming! One person gave me a hug and a kiss for taking her picture… They all asked if I was coming back soon.
While editing the pictures in the silence of my room, the stories came back. I had tears in my eyes. Some of them never had their portrait taken! I cannot wait to go back to deliver their prints!
Please note, that out of respect, I will not be publishing any picture. I was explicitly asked not to and the purpose is more important than showcasing the portraits. Thank you for understanding.
The whole Help Portrait idea is fantastic. You can contact any nearby NGO helping the needy and coordinate. You could even volunteer as a photographer when they need to document their events.
Your photography can bring smiles, hope and people together!
I went back to the NGO on December 7th, 2010 with my friend Elie to distribute the prints. The elderly were just finishing their dinner. We entered and said hello. I was happy that most of them recognized me. I distributed the prints and was thrilled to see the lightened up expressions on their faces. Oh, and the ones who didn’t want their portraits be taken were the first to ask about their prints! They were all thankful and smiling. That moment was priceless!
Thank you to Studio Simon, Elyssar for sponsoring the pictures, the gesture meant a lot!