Krystal Burgess shoots a portrait of Beryl Herdan and Al Neale on Thursday, Dec. 13 as part of the global community giving event, HelpPortrait. (Stephen Ingle photo)

Shuswap photographers give gift of portraits

Salmon Arm volunteers bring global HelpPortrait project to the region

A picture may be worth a thousand words, but last week, 41 Salmon Arm seniors discovered it can also mean kindness.

On Dec. 12, local photographer Krystal Burgess led a team of two other photographers and two makeup artists as they descended on one of the local seniors’ residences where, following some minor primping, their subjects had their portraits taken.

It is the second year Burgess and a team have given the gift of photography, following in the footsteps of Jeremy Cowart, an American celebrity photographer who created Help-Portrait in 2008 to give back to community.

An artist and entrepreneur as well, Cowart maintains his mission in life is to “explore the intersection of creativity and empathy.”

Burgess says she has participated in a Help-Portrait event in Kelowna and decided to bring the event to Salmon Arm.

Joining Burgess in this year’s volunteer event were photographers Stephen Ingle and Selina Metcalfe, and makeup artists Cleo Leyenhorst and Amy Butler. Another volunteer, Jillian Christjansen, acted as a liaison between the group and staff at the residence, whose name is being withheld.

“I think for a lot of photographers, we’re very lucky to do what we do so it’s nice to give back,” Burgess says, noting the project of giving portraits to people who normally wouldn’t have one taken makes it her favourite work day of the year. “When you can give a gift that is so simple and has a big impact, it’s amazing to see.”

Related: Photos connect students, seniors

Help-Portrait was founded in 2008 to empower photographers, hairstylists and makeup artists to use their skills, tools and expertise to give back to their local community.

Each December, photographers, hairstylists and makeup artists all around the world find people in need, take their picture, print their picture and then deliver it – free of charge.

“Help-Portrait is about giving the pictures, not taking them,” reads the organization’s website. “These portraits aren’t for a portfolio, website, or sale. It’s about giving people… a chance to capture a moment, a memory, and a whole lot more.”

“This year, because we had a small team, we went to seniors who didn’t have the means to travel downtown,” Burgess says. “There were a lot of big smiles, even from people who couldn’t really understand what we were doing.”

While slightly hesitant in the beginning, Burgess says residents were “incredibly grateful” once volunteers explained the portraits were a gift to them.

As well, Burgess says she was impressed by the care the staff deliver to residents.

“Without them supporting us, it never would have happened,” she says, noting staff were enthusiastic about seeing the residents’ updated looks and portraits. “We’ll do it next year for sure.”


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