Merlene Davis: Photographers take free portraits for those who can't afford them

Herald-Leader columnistDecember 5, 2012 

  • IF YOU GO

    Help-Portrait, a non-profit organization of professional photographers and other volunteers, will take a free photo of those in need, print and frame it.

    When: 10 a.m.- 4 p.m., Dec. 8.

    Where: Total Grace Baptist Church, 1313 N. Limestone; The Gathering Christian Church, 162 Old Todds Road.

    Information: Email: Andrew@ andrewfore.com.

At this time of year, benevolent organizations seek to provide toys, clothing and food to financially strapped families so that they may have a special Christmas.

But last year, Andrew Fore, owner of Andrew Fore Photography, decided to use his talent to do something a bit different, but just as welcome.

Fore joined Help-Portrait, a fast-growing non-profit organization in which professional photographers use their skills to give people who couldn't otherwise afford it a treasured keepsake.

Last December, he and other volunteers gathered at the Refuge Clinic in Lexington, and created 72 portraits for the 132 people who stopped by.

It was such a positive experience Fore is doing it again this year, only twice as big.

There are two locations this year with nearly a dozen photographers and about 100 volunteers, including hair stylists and make-up artists. The clients can choose to spend time getting pretty or be photographed just as they are.

Mallory Ervin, a former Miss Kentucky and two-time contestant on CBS's Amazing Race, and Mrs. Kentucky 2012 Kathy Polston-Dalton will also be volunteering.

"The premise is to provide this service for those in the less fortunate demographic," Fore said. "We had people last year who had never had a picture taken by a professional. There was a couple in Lexington last year who got their first portrait in 34 years of marriage.

"This is for people who are down on their luck and don't really have the income for Christmas pictures," he said. "We make them feel like kings and queens for a day."

Those who are photographed will receive a 5-by-7 color print complete with frame and gift wrapping.

Help-Portrait was started in 2009 by Jeremy Cowart, a celebrity photographer from Nashville. According to the organization's website, the non-profit has given out more than 200,000 photos taken by 16,500 photographers at 1,720 locations in 60 countries.

In Lexington, Fore wanted a location in the downtown area and one near the Woodhill neighborhood, an area his church, Southland Christian, will focus on with its new satellite facility on Richmond Road.

Meanwhile, Kari Ann Hanke of Lexington, who received a portrait of her son last year, wanted to volunteer with Help-Portrait this year.

She called Fore, learned of his dilemma and asked her church, The Gathering Christian Church, 162 Old Todds Road, to participate.

The photograph of her then-21/2-year-old son "was such a wonderful thing to receive last year I wanted to do something to help out this year," Hanke said.

Last year she had saved money to buy a photo of her son that she could give to his grandmother for Christmas, she said. But life intervened and the money was spent elsewhere.

She read an article about last year's event in this newspaper and took her son that Saturday.

"It was a wonderful, wonderful blessing," she said. "I didn't realize how much of a gift it was until I was on the receiving end of it."

She wanted a family portrait, but her husband worked the night shift and needed to rest. This year, however, she plans to have the family portrait taken, complete with the addition of a new baby.

"We're more broke this year than we were last year," she said, laughing. "We're going for the portrait and to volunteer."

That's fine by Fore. He just wants people to feel special.

"You have people that, a lot of the times, people look right past them," he said. "They are like statues. People feel like they are forgotten. When they come in Saturday, it is all about them and feeling good about themselves."

All the services are free. Several businesses have donated food and drinks, he said, and donations are welcome to purchase more frames. It is all in an effort to make people feel special.

"We want to take your picture and we want you to have the means to give it to someone," Fore said. "It's about giving back."

For Hanke, it is more.

"A photo ... shows you are of value," she said. "It shows you are important enough that someone took a photo of you. It is precious."

Merlene Davis: (859) 231-3218. Email: mdavis1@herald-leader.com. Twitter: @reportmerle. Blog: merlenedavis.bloginky.com.

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