Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside residents offered professional portrait services for free

The fifth annual Help-Portrait Vancouver will begin on Nov. 30. Photo courtesy of Help-Portrait.
The fifth annual Help-Portrait Vancouver will begin on Nov. 30. Photo courtesy of Help-Portrait.

Downtown Eastside residents are getting ready to ‘say cheese’ in preparation for Help-Portrait’s fifth annual photography event.

Help-Portrait’s community volunteers are setting up a portrait studio in the Union Gospel Mission building this Saturday in order to offer professionally captured portraits – for free.

“In this day and age, a lot of us take for granted the experience of having our picture taken,” said Bernard Ng, president of Help-Portrait.

“If you put yourself in someone else’s shoes, someone who’s never had their picture taken let alone a portrait, it’s something pretty powerful.”

Help-Portrait is a movement of photographers who offer their time, equipment and expertise in order to give back to those who are less fortunate.

Many people have never had their portrait done professionally

The movement started in 2009 when American photographer Jeremy Cowart challenged photographers worldwide to find someone in need, take their portrait and deliver it to them.

“To me it’s a really good opportunity to provide photographer services for individuals who normally don’t have access,” said Roger Hur, lead photographer for the event.

“Professional photography can become very cost prohibitive.”

For Hur the event represents an opportunity for like-minded individuals, people who really care about photography, to give something back to the community that is within their capacity.

Having participated in Help-Portrait since its inception, Hur has had the chance to watch families return, year-after-year, hear their stories and watch them grow.

The volunteers see this as their chance to give something back

“I remember one individual I ran into had basically not had his portrait taken for over 10 years,” said Hur.

“He was on the road to rehab and wanted to prove to his family he could do it and send a picture back home.”

Professional make-up artists and hair stylists will provide their services to individuals and families prior to having their portraits taken, and free postage is offered for whoever wants to send their portrait to friends or family.

The event will be hosted at the Union Gospel Mission Saturday, Nov. 30.

“It’s an amazing program and the community loves it,” said Keela Keeping, public relation specialist for UGM.

“We’re happy to host this wonderful event.”

Reported by Brian Horstead

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