When I first heard about the Family Portraits project, I just planned to offer a little photography advice to my friends in Maryland Institute College of Art Social Design Program.
Since I have worked as a commercial photographer, I could give them some support. However, I was surprised to hear that the program offered free portraits within a poor neighborhood. As an international student, I had never lived in a city with the same issues as Baltimore. I never realized that having a family portrait could be so unaffordable to my neighbors. I became interested in finding out how I could help. I determined which equipment could be rented from the school or bought. I suggested purchasing a portable instant photo printer, certain that people would be happier receiving their pictures instantly.
I decided that I needed to participate in the project as well. When we set up and started taking pictures, I was worried that our cultural differences would make it hard to interact. I tried to make eye contact and smile as much as possible. I knew it was working when I heard one mother say, “This picture is going to be the best Christmas present for our family ever.” It was such a satisfying relief.
We later exhibited the portraits, which highlighted what we did for the neighborhoods as well as the relationships and happiness that the portraits created. At the opening, I saw many familiar families talking about their pictures and smiling. Many held my hands and said to me, “You just did a great job.” The event was about more than the pictures – it was about how we all were able to come together, and all of the love and gratitude that came from the photographs. That was the most meaningful gift for all involved.
이호도 | HODO LEE
Maryland Institute College of Art | Magazine
The Joy of giving something 2012