The idea of taking a portrait is a simple one:
For some, the last or only time their portrait had been taken was years ago. Teena Faison guessed five or six. For Cheryl Reese, it's been twenty. Linda Karsten, never. The reasons can range, but for these three women, it was life that stood in the way.
The operative word in that sentence: was. On Dec. 12, things changed as individuals, friends and families had the opportunity to capture themselves in time with a little assistance from Help-Portrait. Self described, Help-Portrait is not a non-profit organization, but a movement. The mission, to not take photos, but to give. Worldwide, photographers donated their time to take photos of those in need.
While the event took place internationally, locally, the event took place in North County at a transitional home called Solutions for Change. Nights before the event, Faison, Reese and Karsten, all from Solutions, reveled in the excitement for the portraits.
"This was the year I could get myself and my kids together," Reese said. "Its been years since I wanted any of us to take portraits."
It was just a year prior to her stay at Solutions, Reese, a mother of five, was addicted to crystal meth. Now, three and a half years later, she able to stand on her own two feet.
"My teenagers are happy to see that mom's life has gotten better," Reese said. "...Now we're all a family again."
For Reese, taking a family portrait would be a symbolic way to start a new.
"One little photo is going to show it all, from beginning to end." Reese said.
Karsten's anticipation stemmed from the fact the experience would be new.
"I don't have a camera...my cell phone doesn't even have a camera" she said.
As a mother of two, Karsten shared her story and why she had many things to be thankful for. Prior to coming to solutions for change, Karsten lead a comfortable life, living in Los Angeles and working in Orange County. Things changed when her 20-year-old son was killed by a drunk driver.
"I kind of just lost it," Karsten said.
To cope, Karsten went to Utah. When she decided to return, Karsten needed a safe place to stay, and in turn found Solutions. These days, things are looking a bit brighter.
"When you've been through everything that I've been through, and all this good stuff starts happening to you, you feel like you're not even worthy," she said.
For Faison, taking a portrait would be a way to help let her children know their status in life.
"[Its] just something to help the kids reassure that we're a family, that we're stable, we're safe," Faison shared. "This is a little adjustment-prior to coming here, we were up and moving a lot."
Before coming to Solutions, she was in treatment for an addiction. This caused Faison and her children to move around many times leaving them with abandonment issues. When she graduated, Faison was able to reunite with her kids. Much like Reese and Karsten, Faison’s best days are right ahead of her. Not only does she and her family have a home, but a job that she enjoys and good friends.
"I was telling [my daughter], all I want for Christmas and my birthday... is a picture with me and all my kids... I'm not a real picture person, I could care less. But now that I'm getting older I can see those memories you kind of want to keep... we can look back and say we were happy this year, we were very blessed this year."
Fifteen photographers came to take pictures of 30+ families on Dec. 12. Though the three women all had images in their heads of what they were going to wear and who would be in their photos, the most powerful part would not be the aesthetics of the image, but instead, the people in them. Because while the concept of a photo is simple, it's those same photos that also capture the complexities of the human experience:
A sense of joy.
Moments of pain.
Journeys, memories, and feelings, all wrapped into one photograph.