By Sarah Boerkircher


On the first Saturday in December, photographers, hairstylists and makeup artists from around the world join forces to people in need, take their picture, and print it, free of charge.
Help-Portrait provides an avenue for photographers to partner with hair and makeup artists in the community, as well as lots of community volunteers, to collectively create a unique and inspiring event to make people feel worthwhile.
Since 2011, the Lexington chapter has served 1,279 guests and provided 1,136 free prints—all thanks to more than 600 volunteers and continued community support.

Gifting a Moment

In 2008, celebrity photographer Jeremy Cowart and Kyle Chowning founded Help-Portrait in Nashville, Tenn., in an effort to empower photographers, hairstylists and makeup artists to use their skills, tools and expertise to give back to their local community. As an United States based 501(c)(3) organization, Help-Portrait has provided 81,856 free portraits worldwide.
“Help-Portrait is about gifting a picture, not taking it,” said Andrew Fore, founder and director of Help-Portrait Lexington. 

“These photo sessions are not about building a portfolio, but a chance to capture a moment for someone who otherwise couldn’t afford it.”

While the worldwide organization was founded in 2008, the Help-Portrait Lexington chapter was founded in 2011, and the Lexington community has hosted an event each year since its founding. This past year, Help-Portrait Lexington served 409 guests during their one-day event on Saturday, December 3, 2016.
“We started the Lexington chapter as a unique way to give back to those less fortunate in our community. Those of us in the photography business work with clients every day that are able to pay for our services, but we realized there are lots of people in our community that, for whatever reason, do not have the ability to have a professional photo taken of themselves, their family, their child or grandchild,” said Andrew.
Help-Portrait serves a wide range of guests from many demographic and economic backgrounds. As Andrew explained, Help-Portrait is designed for any guest that could benefit from a free professional portrait. This includes professional hair and makeup services, a framed print and an opportunity to feel their self worth.
This year’s Help-Portrait Lexington event will be held on Saturday, December 2, 2017.

Save the Date! 

Once the event time and location are determined, all event details and updates will be posted on the Help-Portrait Lexington Facebook page:

“Through the years, we have served people and families that have never had a professional photo taken, females that have never had the opportunity to wear makeup or it has been a long time since they had their hair fixed,” said Andrew. “Sometimes we have had moms or parents bring infants to our events because they otherwise could not afford to have their baby’s picture taken.” 

Steady growth, countless lives impacted

At its first annual event in 2011, Help-Portrait Lexington volunteers didn’t know what to expect. Thanks to the overwhelming support of the community and grassroot efforts, Help-Portrait Lexington has outgrown three locations over the last six years and has seen a steady growth in attendance, both in guest and volunteer participation.
The Lexington chapter has made it its mission to evolve the event each year to be more than just the picture the guest receives, but an uplifting experience. The volunteer staff makes sure that each guest has the best experience possible by escorting them through the process. The escort’s role is to spend time with the guest, get them food, lead them through the experience from hair and makeup to the photo session to picking up their free print. Guest escorts are volunteers that range from teenagers to families that have decided to donate time. As Andrew explained, the goal of the guest escort is to ensure that from the moment a guest walks in the door, they have a positive experience.
In addition to the hair and makeup services, photography, framed print, which can be gift wrapped, the event has food, activities for kids, and giveaways for the guests to enjoy while they wait their turn. Guests do not have to make an appointment, instead one can drop by from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on the first Saturday in December for a photo session and free print.
“The event is designed to be a very warm and loving environment,” said Andrew. “We want our guests to be reminded that regardless of what their current life situation is, they are important and worthwhile people in our society. We want them to recognize their inherent self worth. Often times our guests are in situations or have come out of experiences where they have forgotten their worth, so the event is designed to make sure they know they matter.”
The goal of every event is for the guests and volunteers alike have a great time. This past year, nearly 200 volunteers worked the event and countless businesses and individuals donated food and goods to help make 2016 another successful year for the Lexington chapter. Each year, Help-Portrait Lexington has managed to grow by reaching and serving more than the previous year. To-date, Help-Portrait Lexington has provided more than 1,100 free, professional prints.
In 2016, the Lexington chapter added shuttle pick-ups to their list of amenities for the event. Six different vans had routes and stops all over central Kentucky. Thanks to the community’s continued support of Help-Portrait Lexington, the annual event has expanded its reach each year and continues to raise the spirit of those in need.
All donations made to Help-Portrait Lexington support the local chapter and are strictly used for each year’s event. Monetary donations are used for event specific items, food and beverage donations are used for the guests to enjoy at the event, and good donations are used in the giveaway bags that each guest receives. Such goods can include personal items like toothpaste, toothbrushes, socks, gloves, restaurant meal coupons, hand sanitizer, non-perishable snacks, or other items that are functional and beneficial to the guests.
“The team of photographers, hair and makeup artists, and general volunteers that make this event happen each year are simply amazing,” said Andrew. “We are blessed with incredible people, as well as individual donors and businesses, that make monetary donations or donate goods to make each event a success.”

The volunteers for Help-Portrait Lexington have made it their mission to grow the event each year. At the first Help-Portrait Lexington event in 2011, 30 volunteers managed the event. In 2016, 194 volunteers served. Andrew Fore, director and founder of Help-Portrait Lexington, is expecting even more volunteers will be needed in 2017. 

If you’re interested in donating, volunteering or participating in the 2017 event, please email Andrew at [email protected] for more information. You can also follow Help-Portrait Lexington on Facebook for the latest updates.