15 January 2012

Hope through a Camera Lens {Help Portrait in Kliptown}

Last weekend, Martina invited me to join her and a few other ex-pat friends/bloggers on a morning outing to KliptownSoweto as part of the Help Portrait project. 

Help Portrait is a global initiative which allows photographers from around the world to come together and venture into disadvantaged communities and townships in an effort to accomplish one simple thing:

 a portrait
...or thousands of portraits rather.

And while something as simple as a photo may not seem like the most urgent commodity needing to be filled in these communities, it's important to remember that this portrait may be the only photo that the recipients have ever had taken of themselves.  In the act of giving a printed portrait back to each individual, feelings of hope, optimism, and human dignity are cultivated and for that one moment each person can feel proud and walk with their head held high.  It really is an amazing and beautiful thing.

On this occasion, the group I went with was returning to Kliptown to give photos back which they had taken a few months prior.

When we got there, we laid all of the photos out on tables as the children excitedly lined up waiting for the moment when they would be able to look for their very own portrait.

There were lots of curious faces as they approached the table, but their curiosity quickly turned to amusement once they spotted themself amongst the wave of photos.

After everyone had a chance to claim their photo and share it with all of their friends, we had a ball of a time getting to know and play with the children and also getting a personal tour of the local community courtesy of the Kliptown Youth Program.  I was shocked to discover that they currently rely on only 150 portable toilets to support a community of about 44,000 people.  Shocking, isn't it?  Nothing like a healthy dose of reality to remind me of how fortunate I am and how I shouldn't take one single thing for granted.

Despite the difficult living circumstances, these children didn't hold back one single ounce of love and welcomed us into their community with open arms.  And they were absolute hams in front of the camera!  They all kept screaming "shoot me, shoot me!" and then wanted to look at themselves on the camera as soon as you had finished taking the photo.

Photo Credit: Martina
This cutie wins best "poser" of the day ;)
... and this guy was quite the joker!

As we reluctantly left Kliptown that afternoon, my heart was full and I felt an overwhelming sense of contentment and gratitude for all that I've been blessed with in my life.  ...And I think we were all already thinking about the next time that we would be back to play with and "shoot" the children. 

One day I hope to be able to actually photograph some of the portraits myself, but only once I feel up to the job and more comfortable with a DSLR camera.  A huge thanks to Martina, Karen, and Heather for taking me along and introducing me to the Help Portrait initiative. It was one of the best days I've had in Josi so far and my life is that much fuller for it.  You guys are the best :)

If you'd like to learn more about Help Portrait and possible opportunities in your area, see here.

If you'd like to learn more about the program in general, here is their 2011 Community Video
{but be sure to grab a box of tissues before you press play!}


  1. Wow, this is awesome! What a great way to serve those sweet kids!! And seriously, thanks for reminding me how blessed I am to have even simple things, like a toilet!!

  2. These children are too cute, I love their poses ;)
    You're doing a great job where you are. Xo

  3. This is so amazing. You're doing such a great job there. It warms my heart to see this.

  4. I did the Help Portrait in my city! It's is so much fun and it's a joy to see the smiles in the families' faces.

  5. Jenna,
    This completely melts my heart. What an incredible experience for both you and those kids!
    Thank you for sharing with us!

  6. oh my goodness....love the looks on their little faces seeing their picture....so sweet!

  7. They are so cute :) I used to help out at a AIDs orphans home at school for Rotary Interact and they were so cute and loving it was the absolute best experience ever!

    Such a great idea!


  8. i want to squeeze their faces. too cute...what a great thing you're doing.

  9. Wow, this is sooo special! I adore these photos. How beautiful.

  10. what an amazing idea!!! and so cool you could be a part of it!

    this is proof that it doesnt take much to make a person happy and smile...and as americans, many lose sight of that fact as we demand and demand...but forget it really is the little things that make us so happy :)


Thanks for the love!