Local Photographers Offer Free Portraits To Those In Need

By Addison Speck, Reporter

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By Ellen Kurt

IOWA CITY, Iowa - A group of local photographers spent their Saturday giving back to the community one snapshot at a time. It was the first annual "Help-Portrait" event in Iowa City but it's been happening across the nation since 2009. On Saturday, a few dozen people showed up to the Wesley House on North Dubuque Street for a free professional portrait.

The event aimed to help those in need during the time of year when money can be tight for some. Professional photographs are a luxury that not everyone can afford and that's why Justin Torner and Julie Staub teamed up to start "Help-Portrait" in Eastern Iowa.

"We wanted to take all of our wealth of knowledge on how to light, make people smile, and bring out that warm emotion in people. We did all of that for free, because we want to give back to the community that takes care of us," Torner said.

About ten local photographers took part in the event, providing five different studio setups and bringing in stylists from La James to do hair and makeup. They snapped a picture, printed it, framed it, and even wrapped it.

"It's been a really rewarding experience for all the photographers. This is an opportunity where we can all get together. We normally shoot alone and do projects alone so for all of us to be in the same room and collaborate is very cool," Torner said.

Erhan Kraina, of Iowa City, had his portrait taken on Saturday at the event.

"I'm so happy about it, today my confidence went through the roof," he said. "It makes you feel good about yourself and the community. It makes me feel like I am worth it, and we are all worth it."

Torner said it feels good to know that people walked out taking pride in their photograph.

"The first gentleman we took a picture of was 54 years-old, he hadn't had his picture taken since he was in grade school. He was going to give his 80-year-old father the picture for Christmas to surprise him," said Torner.

Torner said after hearing stories like that, the group of photographers have already discussed holding the event again next year.

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