Baltimore-area photographers donate time for free portrait day

Second annual event is part of worldwide Help-Portrait event

  • Quin Hulamm of Greenbelt, an amateur photographer, creates images of Shirmia Magginson, 19, Andrea Costley and Sheria Costley, 7, Baltimore, during the second annual Help-Portrait event.
Quin Hulamm of Greenbelt, an amateur photographer, creates… (Kim Hairston, Baltimore…)
December 05, 2010|By Larry Carson, The Baltimore Sun

Until Saturday, the only pictures Angie Goode had of herself and her 1-year-old daughter, Armani McKinney, were self-portraits, taken by holding her cell phone out in front of her.

But now she has two professionally done images free, courtesy of about 100 local photographers, hair and makeup stylists and other volunteers who invited the public in for free holiday photo session as a community gift.

"This is wonderful. This is our first photo together," said Goode, 37, as she reviewed her favorite two shots with a photo editor at a long line of laptop computers in a large room at Charm City Church, at Frederick Avenue and Payson Street in Southwest Baltimore. "I feel like a supermodel," she added, peering at the image of her holding Armani.

The photographers were aiming to inspire just such a feeling Saturday, at the second annual Baltimore version of Help-Portrait, an international holiday season phenomenon.

Mike Stog, a professional Howard County-based photographer, organized the Baltimore event, aided by firms like Chick-fil-A, which provided food, and Hewlett Packard, which donated photographic paper and ink, and loaned the group several high-quality printers so people could take their photos home immediately.

Last year, nearly 10,000 volunteer Help-Portrait photographers and make-up artists produced nearly 42,000 photos in hundreds of locations in dozens of countries, from Baltimore to Brazil and from Colorado to Cairo, organizers said.

The idea, they said, is to give a gift to people who may rarely feel special enough for a professional photograph. The program advertises itself as "a shift in thinking about photography," and urges participants to "help people feel valued."

Stog, 30, of Highland, who said he was a philosophy and theology major in college in British Columbia, has a scruffy, unassuming look for a studio photographer, with his goatee, tattoos, worn jeans, black T-shirt and black baseball cap worn askew on his head.

"Try to take the time to listen," he told his eager troops as he stood on a chair to explain how the process would work, minutes before the noon to 3 p.m. event began. "Hear people's stories. Hang out with them. We're no Olan Mills or Wal-Mart photography," he said, referring to chain stores that do what he considers an assembly line version of photography.

"It's art for us. Last year, I drove away in tears," Stog said. "The stories you hear are pretty much the most valuable thing you get."

Everyone was welcome, and as they entered, people filled out a short form, were assigned a photographer and had make-up and hairstyles done if they wished. Then participants sat for their photo sessions and retreated downstairs to socialize and nosh on snacks while the best five to 10 shots were readied in computers. Finally, they were called back to choose two take-home prints.

Amy Austin, 32, brought her reluctant mother Linda Anderson, 55, and her eager daughter, Beyonce Tates, 9. All got their hair styled and makeup applied before sitting for a three-generational portrait.

"I don't like pictures," Anderson said, making it clear the excursion was her daughter's idea. But Austin was enthusiastic. "Me and [Beyonce] never really experienced anything like this," she said, gazing at dozens of cameras going off all over the room as loud, up-tempo music played continuously.

"It's really nice what they're doing," Austin said. "It's fine," Beyonce chimed in with a smile, her hair twisted into long Shirley Temple-styled curls.

Kasey Caruthers, 25, a Woodlawn photographer, said the trend now is to be more creative and artistic. The ubiquitous cell phone camera hasn't hurt the business, she said, but has instead boosted interest in portrait photography.

"I think that now it's ventured out into more creative artistry." The idea of photographing a different clientele excited her creative side, and she admitted she expected to get more enjoyment than she provided Saturday. "I hope [the clients] can take something from this. I'm so excited!"

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