Dec 12, 2013

Help-Portrait Saskatoon 2013


The Help-Portrait events in Saskatoon have come and gone for another year. We still have a few loose ends to tie up, including repaying those volunteers who fronted the money for much of the event, based on pledges from companies who have yet to step up and fulfill their promises. We may need to take to social media to guilt them into paying up, which is unfortunate, but we cannot bear the cost ourselves nor let them renege.

Words like those are not popular, but as long as any responsibility lays with me I will do my best to make certain our Help-Portrait events remain about serving people, not bureaucracy and broken promises which diminish our ability to focus on the people.


And the people were great!

The photos in this post are from our clients that attended our first event at the Canadian Paraplegic Association here in Saskatoon. I chose to not post photos of all of our CPA participants based on my perception of their willingness to have their photo shared, not on them or the quality of the photo made of them. At the end of the post is a link to the album on Facebook containing the photos, both portraits and candid, from our main event at the White Buffalo Youth Lodge last Saturday, at -34C before wind. More on that shortly.


Lynnett, pictured at the top of the post, requested an autumn scene for her backdrop. Since I was unfamiliar with her and her personality, I had two choices available to her. A somber, darker scene, and the one you see in her photo. Her clothing suited the scene but, as you can read on Challenging Reality in the new year, one of the struggles with winter for a disabled person is the clothing. The bulk, restriction, and simple time and struggle to apply and remove it are hassles, to say the least. One more reason I want future events like this to be in seasons most favourable to disabled folks.


Desirée, Scott and Asha were not letting the weather stop them. We began with Desiree's portrait while Asha colored some Christmas coloring pages we had for the kids. Desiree's photo was just a nice look on a white background. Next, was their family shot. The Light Blaster, the tool we were using to project the backgrounds, did not perform terribly well with a white-ish slide. The winter scene behind them did not stand out the way that we had hoped. Considering how new this tool is to me this was an acceptable portrait but definitely made for something I have now learned. It may help if I use a proper projection screen because they are a certain material that interacts well with all colours and are not just pure white.

Desiree's husband, Scott, is a writer and wanted something with himself somewhere famous for writers. Through our conversations we came up with the concept of looking out a window at the Hollywood sign. For those technically interested, this was accomplished by using a slide printed with a creative commons licensed photo then adding a second slide meant to look like a large bay window. We were pretty happy with the result this produced.

Scott had his look and knew exactly what he wanted. I always enjoy working with people like that, who are willing to accept some direction, know what you are trying to get them to do, but also come with some very well defined ideas of their own.


Jamie and her kids were a bunch of fun. Look at those cute little faces! It took a few tries to get good expressions and of course her little boy would have nothing to do with sitting still. But each time they plopped him down in the chair with some excitement we got about two frames before he was off and running again. It was a lot of fun and we were glad that we could squeeze her in at the very last minute to get her some family photos made in time for Christmas.


Unfortunately for Laura, I was getting pretty tired by the end of the day. I hadn't slept much the night before and my people skills were slipping away as quickly as my alertness. We also came into her session not knowing what she wanted so we started experimenting the slides and seeing what she liked. After the first round I stepped aside and let others work with her. Eric is an amazing guy when it comes to working with people and I know there is plenty I could learn from observing him making photos and interacting.


I had to save the best for last. You probably recognize the first photo Lawrence. I did post it a few days ago but wanted to share it again so that all photos were in the same place. Lawrence came in knowing what he was wanting, with the guitar and some killer sunglasses, faux hawk at the ready after being touched up by our stylists. I had been planning his photo in my mind for weeks because ever since I met him I knew one day I wanted to make a portrait of him.

I certainly hope these are not the last ones.


We toned down the lighting and attempted to fill the background with fog from a handheld fog machine of mine. Unfortunately, it just does not have the output needed for that so we made it useful to add a little bit of character to the intensity of this playing.

He was pretty pumped about the results, but then so were we!


There is no question that without the team pictured below the day could not have been anywhere near the success it was. Many hands make a lot of things possible very quickly. A slight tweak to the light, a small adjustment there or a major change in the overall set up would've taken me hours to complete. It was great to have multiple sets of hands to help me make a day I had been excited about for so long possible.

Without the effective work of our stylists people would not have looked at their very best, the way only a skilled aesthetician can make a person look. We greatly appreciate their efforts and how they helped our clients to feel their very best before getting in front of the camera.

Thanks to everyone who made our first Help-Portrait event in Saskatoon a success. I think we will need to do another smaller scale one like this again in the future.


Our event that coincided with the worldwide event on December 7 was held at the White Buffalo Youth Lodge. Like I said earlier in my post, it was -34°C before the wind and we felt it. When we arrived the building was not open yet so we started behind schedule. Certain pieces of gear that we expected to be there did not show up so we were compromising and making do with what we had. The forms we needed our participants to sign so that we could make their photos were forgotten because of too much work being piled on Bruce's shoulders, but that was just a quick photocopy to make them ready to use. And, then, in order to get the motorbikes into the gym we had to remove the vertical post between the double doors in the gym so that they would open wide enough to get the Harleys through.

Once they were in, and we had our booths set up we were ready to roll. Unfortunately, be it ineffective advertising, cold temperatures or whatever other factors, we only served 95 people when we were expecting 300. It was a good day, we had plenty of time to make sure everybody was photograph well because there were no huge lineups at any point but, with all that time in organizing going into it we want to make the most of our time. We will gather our information and put together a document to help refine the process for future years.

The link below should provide you access to Help-Portrait Saskatoon's Facebook album containing the portraits and the candid photos of the day. Please feel free to like the group and stay updated on the news and upcoming events, the they next spring or summer or closer to this time next year.

Help-Portrait Sasktoon 2013 Album

Our day ended with an informal gathering at McGuire's with some food, drinks and a lot of great connecting and conversation. Amanda from Renditure Photography is friends with a researcher at the University who is studying neuroscience and has an art project she is working on to help bring awareness of certain neurological diseases. Because of my circumstances and my skill with still life Amanda asked if I'd be interested in participating in that project. I'm looking forward to potentially participating in it and am quite certain that no other post-Help-Portrait gathering included discussion about photographing rat brains.

I'm certain I will let you know if I have the opportunity to shoot something is interesting is that.

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