A small army of professional photographers descended on a community centre in the Church and Wellesley neighbourhood to help families who might otherwise be unable to afford a portrait create their very own holiday memories.
Fourteen photographers, 14 assistants and five makeup artists teamed up for the Saturday event that saw approximately 170 families capture a special moment in a way that is normally out of reach.
The project is called HELP Portrait 2017 and has been taking place around the world since 2008. This was the first time it had come to the 519, an LGBT community centre.
Struan Campbell-Smith with the Canadian Association of Professional Image Creators is one of the event’s organizers and says that while dozens came together to help, it didn’t take long to find people who wanted to give back.
“A lot of people just rallied together. We put out the word and within a week, people were signed up.”
‘A really, really special thing’
Flora Mudiwa and her four-year-old daughter, Lelna, were among those who turned out for the chance to take home a portrait. For Mudiwa, it was the very first time she’d ever had her makeup done.
“I can’t really afford professional makeup or a professional portrait,” she said. “It feels special.”
Lelna was delighted at the result. “It’s me and my mommy. It was so exciting!” she said, adding that the pair have already decided to put the photo in their living room.
Being at the 519, the event took on a special meaning, according to community organizer Curran Stickuts. That’s because the definition of a family for many of those who use the centre is often different from that of many others, he explains.
“I think it’s important to have it here because it allows us to really look what the idea of family means,” said Stickuts.
“It can be chosen family, maybe you’re not born into it … so to have an opportunity for people to come here, low-income folks to be able to get those family portraits and have them to share throughout the holiday season, I think is a really, really special thing.”
‘Just connect with people’
The value of that isn’t lost on photographer Christopher Dew, who has been part of the program for the last five years.
“It really is a very special moment to come by and just connect with people. It’s very special seeing subjects one…