December 11, 2011 | Source: Monroe Gallery of Photography

The Albuquerque Journal
on Sun, Dec 11, 2011

More than 15 families had their portraits taken Saturday – many for the first time – as part of an international project that gives needy families free professional photos.

The event, organized by Journal photographer Morgan Petroski, drew 10 photographers from the Albuquerque area who spent the day shooting photos of young families. Each family received an 8-by-10-inch picture.

One of those families was Bettielen Kasuse and her children, 6-year-old Elizabeth and 2-year-old Nathaniel. Kasuse dressed up her little boy in a tie and put her daughter’s hair in curls for the special occasion.

“It feels good because we’ll have memories of them when they get older,” she said. “It was awesome.”
Kasuse said this was the first portrait they took as a family.

“I got up at like 5 this morning and got them all dressed up,” she said.

Like the 16 other families who were photographed Saturday, Kasuse received a gift certificate to clothing store Other Mothers for outfits for the special occasion. Local restaurants also donated food for the families while they waited to have their picture taken, processed and printed.

Sandra Contreras was waiting to have her portrait printed while son Xavier, 2, and daughter Julyssa,4, played in the lobby of Cuidando Los Niños, a nonprofit that works to end homelessness.

Cuidando Los Niños partnered with Help-Portrait, which was held worldwide Saturday, to bring together the families and photographers. Contreras said her family had never been photographed professionally. She said it was the first time she’s dressed up her little boy.

“It was fun to dress up,” Contreras said. “It was a neat experience.”

The Contreras family picture was taken by local photographer David Randall, who said it was the first time he’s taken part in Help-Portrait. This was the second year the event took place in Albuquerque.

Randall said he loves photography, volunteering and helping people, and that participating was “a great way to combine those three.”

He described the family’s excitement at the professional setup and photo session.

“When they first come in, they seem to be a little in awe of all the stuff going on,” he said. “Once they see the pictures, I hear little ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ and (see) smiles, and that’s a reward in itself.”

It was that sense of excitement Petroski was aiming for when she decided to organize the event. Petroski thought it was time to start giving back.

“I’ve always felt that giving back to the community is the best. After living here for two years, I hadn’t done anything,” she said.

Many of the families who were photographed told her this was their first family portrait.

“To hear something like that,” Petroski said, “it makes it all worth it.”

Tags: portrait photography Help-Portrait