Help-Portrait Iowa City photographs 400 families for free at annual event

International non-profit aims to grow sense of self-worth, preserve family memories

Francie Williamson
Published: December 9 2013 | 2:00 pm - Updated: 29 March 2014 | 12:39 am in
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Photos by Stephen Mally, The Gazette.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but it can also cost a lot of money. That's why Iowa City’s Paris Johnson has never had a family portrait taken.

"They have good deals, but I didn't want to get cheap ones, and they look cheap. Then, the more expensive ones, they look very nice, but they're really expensive," said Johnson.

Her image impasse ended Saturday when she and her kids took a family photo taken by a group called Help-Portrait Iowa City, all at no charge.

"It was totally free," said Johnson.

This is the second year the group held the annual one-day event. Last year, photographers only snapped and printed 48 portraits. This year, an estimated 400 portraits were taken.

"It's grown exponentially, more than we would have expected," said Alicia Hoecherl, with Help-Portrait Iowa City.

While the free pictures were obviously the big draw, Hoecherl said their group was giving families more.

"Help-Portrait is about helping people understand their value and worth as a human and helping them to see the beauty of their family," Hoecherl said.

You could certainly see the beauty in Johnson's pictures. Beyond the smiles, their photos had a deeper significance.

"For the future, for memories. Anything can happen. You can always look at that picture and think, ‘We were all together, at least that day,’ " Johnson said.

Help-Portrait is an international non-profit, started in 2009, with chapters across the globe.

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