Hurricane Sandy Relief: Pics for Proceeds

Pics for Proceeds

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 You can also find them on Facebook, via!/PicsForProceeds?fref=ts.

Featured Nonprofit:

When I’ve profiled charities and nonprofits in this space, I’ve tended to focus on organizations whose focus and mission are directly photography-related. Indeed, many photographers who are charity-minded are already well acquainted with the work of  one or more of these organizations. While I’ll be going back to profiling more of those great nonprofits and their work in this space, I’m making an exception this month for Idealist.

Here’s the thing: I think that photo charities are great. They’re even better if you have a cause about which you’re passionate, and to which you want to donate your talents and services. But what if you just want to get your toes wet, or if you’re not 100% sure where your passion and time are best spent? That’s where Idealist really shines.

The idea for Idealist came to founder Ami Dar in the mid-1980’s. Eleven years and a couple of name changes later, Idealist launched. In the decade and a half since, it’s become the closest thing online to a one-stop shop for anything and everything related to nonprofit organizations. Not only are there literally thousands of volunteer opportunities from all around the world, there are also jobs, internships, programs, and a pretty lively community around the whole lot of it.

And while it’s not a portrait charity, it’s a great fit for photographers who might want to volunteer. Sometimes you might just be looking for a shorter-term volunteer gig, or maybe you’re not confident enough in your photography to volunteer as a photographer but you’d still like to do something. You’re likely to find something here. It’s also good from an organizational standpoint, especially if your NPO/NGO’s mission isn’t explicitly related to photography or portraiture, but you could use a bit of help behind the camera.

So, whether you’re looking to donate (time, money, or services), work, launch your own organization or project, or find just the right person for something you’ve already got up and running, give a try (if you haven’t already). It’s a phenomenal resource.

Postscript: visit Idealist on the web to find out all about who they are, what they do, and what, in turn, you can do:

Reminder: Help Portrait, 12/10/11

From Help-Portrait Los Angeles

Received the following press release from Help-Portrait, which I’m reproducing verbatim. If your photo charity/portrait charity has an upcoming event and you’d like to get the word out, please contact me at — PB





Nashville, Tn –October 27, 2011— This December 10, photographers around the world will gather for the third annual Help-Portrait event. In 2009, Help-Portrait began as an idea that transformed into a movement in just three months.  The idea behind Help-Portrait is simple: 1. Find someone in need 2. Take their portrait 3. Print their portrait and 4. Deliver their portrait. In the last two years, more than 101,000 portraits have been given by 10,000 photographers and 12,000 volunteers. Help-Portrait is now a global movement in more than 1,000 locations in 54 countries.

This year, Help-Portrait founder Jeremy Cowart announced new elements to make Help-Portrait a more hands-on experience for those being photographed.  From the beginning of the Help-Portrait movement nearly three years ago, photographers and volunteers have embraced the Help-Portrait ethos: that is giving, not taking photos. However, this year Help-Portrait is encouraging the photographers to share the photos of those subjects who want to tell their story to a wider audience.

“As the founder of this movement, I felt it was best to not show the photos,” shares Cowart.  “I didn’t want this movement to be about photography. But I underestimated our community – they all instantly caught on to the spirit of Help-Portrait. But now I’m realizing just how much we’ve kept the world from seeing and experiencing what we get to see each year. Now I want to let everyone in our little secret by sharing the photos of those who want to tell their stories to the world.”

Another addition to this year’s event will involve a personalized element. Those photographed will have the opportunity to draw and write on their photos to tell their stories. This provides an avenue for their voice to be heard. See the examples of the photos taken at a recent Help-Portrait event with Cowart at the Union Rescue Mission on Skid Row in Los Angeles.

“We believe that the portraits will transform into works of art that reflect their subject,” states Cowart who saw this first hand last week in LA.

In  addition, the Help-Portrait team is encouraging photographers to hand the cameras  over to the subjects and do their own shooting through the lens giving  them a unique opportunity to be behind the camera. It’s never been about  the photographer or his skills or what he has to offer. It’s always  been about connecting with and giving back to the subject.  For more  information on Help-Portrait visit, .

Celebrity  photographer Jeremy Cowart formed Help-Portrait, a non-profit  organization, in 2009 as he contemplated using his skills and expertise  to give back to those who may not have the opportunity for a  professional photo.  The idea is that a photographer has the unique  ability to help someone smile, laugh and return their dignity.  It is a  movement, a shift in photography.  The rapid growth of this organization  is a perfect example of Social Media use for good as the community  shares ideas and stories through the channels of Twitter, Facebook,  YouTube and blogging. Help-Portrait has partnered in the past with  corporations including Ritz & Wolf Camera & Image, creativeLIVE,  Chick-fil-A and Flosites, which created Help-Portrait’s website and  online community.

From  Bangalore, India to Ghana, Africa, the language of Help-Portrait crosses cultural and socio-economic barriers. Even Hollywood has gotten  in the act. In 2010, A-list actors Zachary Levi and Yvette Nicole Brown  volunteered at a Help-Portrait event in Los Angeles and participated in a  live webcast. The online live stream of the main event day from the  creativeLIVE studio in Seattle featured hosts including Help-Portrait founder  Jeremy Cowart, another high-profile photographer Chase Jarvis and Help-Portrait volunteer staff member Annie Downs.

Cowart began full-time photography in 2005 and has traveled to six continents with his talent.  He’s photographed Imogen Heap, Sting, Taylor Swift, Britney Spears, Carrie Underwood and more. He’s also worked with entertainment clients ABC, E!, Fox, A&E, FX, The Style Network, CMT and others.

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Twitter @help_portrait

POSTSCRIPT: H-P has also released the following video for the 2011 event:

Charity Profile: Help-Portrait



Help-Portrait was founded in 2008 by photographer Jeremy Cowart. In just a few short years, the organization’s presence has ballooned; what started out as a small handful of participants now involves groups and individuals from all points on the map, including the United States, the UK, Brazil, and many other places. Their mission, as they describe it:

In December, photographers around the world will be grabbing their cameras, finding people in need and taking their picture. When the prints are ready, the photographs get delivered.

Yep. It really is that easy.

And by the way, we don’t want to see your photos. This is about GIVING the pictures, not taking them. These portraits are not for your portfolio, website, or for sale. Money isn’t involved here. This holiday season, you have the chance to give a family something they may have never had before—a portrait together.

As with any good mission statement, the above can be condensed to a handful of no-nonsense bullet points:
1. Find someone in need
2. Take their portrait
3. Print their portrait
4. Deliver their portrait

Predictably enough, some photographers have griped about all of this (usually they’re the same ones who spend more time on discussion forums bitching over their manufacturer of choice not updating their favorite camera yet, so they’re jumping ship to (insert name of other manufacturer), wondering whether the time, money, skills and photos could be put to better use. There’s a video at the end of this post that explains the organization and their mission pretty well, but in the meantime, let me say this: if someone’s living in poverty, or just barely making it, one of the last things they’re going to spend money on is having photos done. In the grand scheme of things, it’s not really a vital need. I’ll grant that. But the service provided here — and simultaneously, some part of its genius — is that it gives families and individuals the opportunity to get their portrait done professionally when they wouldn’t otherwise have the chance. Since family portraits are a big thing for some of us, it becomes easy to see why a simple click of the shutter can give someone not just a photo, but also a reminder that they count.

Notice that there’s nothing here that states you have to be a professional, though plenty of professional photographers do donate their time and services. You don’t even have to be a photographer to get involved. Each site typically requires not only photographers, but also people to help with lighting, makeup, general tasks and errands, and people whose job is primarily to look after the needs of those photographed during the shoot. In short: not a pro? No problem. Not even a photographer? They’ll likely find a spot for you, as well.

You can find Help-Portrait in a few places on the web. You can, for instance, follow them on Facebook (your local chapter may also have a presence there), or on Twitter. The real goldmine of information and resources, however, is the organization’s main site, From there, you can find information on the 2011 event (which takes place less than a month from now), read their Mission Statement, a robust Community section,  a blog, and — perhaps most importantly, information on getting started.

Postscript: Here’s a video posted by Help-Portrait that explains, in their own words, what they’re doing: