A few months ago, I was reading about some photographers in a community (and I want to say Portland, Oregon, but I may be wrong) who donated their time and skills to do family portraits for the less fortunate before Christmas. The idea was to allow families that couldn't afford to have a formal portrait taken an opportunity to do this. Having grown up in less than wealthy circumstances myself, I felt that the entire concept was truly awesome and so my question is... How does one execute on this?

I really like the idea, and I would like to bring it to the Toronto area, but I honestly have no idea at all how to make something like that happen. Anyways, I didn't see this as a truly "photography related" question, but more in line with the concept of Jeff Attwood's conference notice, so I posted it here. Besides, I don't need rep for this. :)

So, toss me your thoughts, I have a few months to try and make this roll...

  • Wow, what can I say, marvellous concept.
    – labnut
    Apr 21, 2011 at 5:51
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    Not such an indirect question, the social purposes of photography is an important question in its own right.
    – labnut
    Apr 21, 2011 at 7:04
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    Just a thought, wouldn't this question belong in Main?
    – labnut
    Apr 21, 2011 at 9:11
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    For those interested, you're probably talking about the annual "Help Portrait" project - help-portrait.com. And there appears to be a Toronto group.
    – rfusca
    Apr 21, 2011 at 18:50

2 Answers 2


The Help Portrait project - they even have information on getting donations.

Check out: http://help-portrait.com/getting-started/

There appears to be a Toronto group of about 80.

  • That looks like a seriously good organisation! Most impressive.
    – labnut
    Apr 21, 2011 at 20:36
  • I found them today, though it doesn't look entirely structured. However, now that I'm aware of them I'm going to have a look.
    – Joanne C
    Apr 21, 2011 at 20:59
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    The organization currently is more like a matching service to get groups of people together that want to help. They provide very little actual direction.
    – rfusca
    Apr 21, 2011 at 21:10
  • I know a few folks that all volunteer with them around both the US and Canada. They all report it is very satisfying and fulfilling work.
    – cabbey
    Apr 22, 2011 at 18:44

In your area you will find that there are a few children's homes, nominally orphanages.

I have worked with such children. Amongst other problems they have poor self regard, feel abandoned and worthless. I think taking the time to photograph them and giving them the photos would give them a huge boost. They would love the process and I am sure you will get some memorable photos. Don't forget the staff, they too would love it.

Once again +++ for a marvellous idea. I am going to set about doing the same thing in my area.

Social capital

There could be some privacy sensitivities so you might need a simple signed agreement with the home administrations where you undertake not to publish/misuse the photos and they in turn give their signed assent, they are acting in loco parentis. And always have staff present during photo sessions.

To extend my answer.
If you want to photograph the less fortunate families a good avenue is to approach the local churches. They will have community help programmes and can put you in contact with suitable families.

Your local government structures will have departments that deal with/assist the destitute and unfortunate. They too will be a good avenue.

And finally there is the $2 Portrait project (and this posting) (and on Flickr) that some photographers follow. I have recently started my own, similar project. It is fascinating and gives respect to the most unfortunate.

Here are the ten most generous nations, on an individual level, for charitable works (Copyright Charities Aid Foundation).
See this report by the Charities Aid Foundation.
It is no surprise to see that Canada is ranked No 3.
enter image description here

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    Thanks for the ideas (and links). Your suggestion on the churches is a good one, though being an atheist it's a bit of an odd thought for me. Nevertheless, I have an aunt who is retired from the Salvation Army and can probably help and you triggered that thought for me. Thanks!
    – Joanne C
    Apr 21, 2011 at 10:39
  • JoanneC: glad it helped. I look forward to seeing your report back on the project. I always look on with admiration when someone starts a community support project.
    – labnut
    Apr 21, 2011 at 12:07
  • I will. I'm rather sheepish that I didn't think of talking to my aunt, it's kind of obvious after the fact... :)
    – Joanne C
    Apr 21, 2011 at 13:01
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    Actually, the nominal payment (a buck or two) is a great idea in this case. In Canada (as of this writing) that would automatically give the copyright in the image to the subject rather than the photographer (my standard portraiture arrangement is a convoluted affair in which I have to treat the sitter as a hired model and allow them to purchase copies of the image in order to get around Canadian copyright law). That gives the subject the absolute right to restrict usage of the images; the contract would only give the photographer a limited license.
    – user2719
    May 4, 2011 at 0:29
  • Oh -- most of these agencies cannot act in loco parentis; all they can do is bar access to their premises and client data. Where there is a question of competence, the Crown will be acting as guardian.
    – user2719
    May 4, 2011 at 0:33

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