Heather Jo Mangum started Pics for Proceeds in 2009 when a coworker lost everything in a house fire. What started as a photo shoot to replace some photos for a friend who lost everything is growing by word of mouth into something much bigger.
“Knowing I couldn’t possibly help everyone myself, I set forth to partner with other photographers to develop a network of people who could join forces and collectively offer the same services but on a large enough scale to help so many who were impacted and leverage our size for help. I’ve just started focusing on getting a network developed for the Sandy survivors in the past week.”
Heather Jo has had offers of assistance from photographers, makeup artists and hair salons, as well as the donation of frames from one of the biggest names in the business. Partnerships with other nonprofits are also in the works, in order to allow deductions to pass through tax deductable. While she says progress has been slow, momentum is beginning to build.
She doesn’t consider herself an artist, preferring to call herself a “heartist”, and says that if she can put a smile on a mom’s face and melt her heart, “then my job is done.” She also, incidentally doesn’t consider herself a professional. “I never set out to be a photographer by career. I don’t want to have a full photography business that takes away from photographers who do this for their sole income source. I have a corporate job that pays well which allows me to subsidize the photography. I believe everyone is given a gift, big or small, that can be used to help others. For me, it’s the opportunity to help others capture the precious memories and moments in life.”
Currently, Pics for Proceeds is recruiting photographers of all skill levels. Ms. Mangum asks that her more experienced volunteers pay it forward by not only helping families in need, but also by sharing their skills with other, less-experienced shooters. She emphasizes that she wants to foster “a supportive, not competitive or secretive, environment.” There are challenges in this kind of photography, and sometimes the logistical issues are the least of it. A photo session for a survivor brings strong emotions to the surface, making it vital for volunteers to operate with patience, sensitivity and empathy.
Heather Jo offers some parting words for those who are amateurs or novices (or maybe just a bit insecure about their skills): “I say, ‘JOIN US! ‘There will always be someone better than you and someone less experienced than you. I will say that we are not the best place for someone who is new to photography. If all of your pictures are always done in “program” mode, I would probably ask to spend some time with you discussing what level of training may be needed and available before having you shoot independently. But I don’t think you can go wrong if your heart is in the right place and you’re willing to learn.” She stresses that it’s less about the camera than a willingness to learn, and to accept assignments based on skill level. And even those who aren’t photographers are welcomed with open arms, since assistance is also needed with setup, makeup artistry, and quite a bit else.
You can now sponsor family photo shoots directly through the Pics for Proceeds website, and the money will go directly to the cost of printing the pictures from the photo shoots. This allows Pics for Proceeds to focus on free photography for families in need. To visit them on the web, go to http://www.picsforproceeds.com/. You can also find them on Facebook, via https://www.facebook.com/#!/PicsForProceeds?fref=ts.