This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2010, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Gnawing on granola bars as they shifted in their seats, Torrie Broadbent and her son Markus seemed anxious, if not a little nervous. Of course it had been nearly a decade since they had posed for a professional picture it was too expensive, especially for this single Midvale mom who lives in a subsidized apartment complex.
But thanks to five volunteer photographers and the Help-Portrait program set up by Salt Lake County Housing Authority, the pair and more than 100 low-income residents like them left Grace Mary Manor smiling Saturday, a voucher for their free portrait and CD in hand.
"I'm excited," said Broadbent, who is eight months pregnant and planning to make Christmas cards with the picture. "We haven't had family pictures since he was 1, nine years ago. We don't have a lot of money for Christmas this year, so this is perfect. It's really nice."
That gratitude was as thick as Saturday's appointment log, on which 117 parties were penciled for their free photos at the South Salt Lake manor, home to 84 formerly chronically homeless residents.
Couples, large families, single seniors and even a pair posing with their dog streamed in during the eight-hour shoot.
"A lot of people are suffering," said organizer and photographer Chris Dickinson. "It's nice to help people smile again find their dignity."
Now in its second year, Help-Portrait had triple the turnout from 2009. Organizers attribute that to the flat-lined economy and aggressive outreach across housing authority facilities. The free photos even were available to walk-ins off the street this time.
"Sometimes, these folks haven't had their picture taken for years and years and years," said Kay Luther, services coordinator for the manor. One of last year's shots, she noted, doubled as a memorial photo for a longtime homeless man who recently passed away.
As her sons Damien and Daunte shouted "hot dog" for a photographer, Jodi Davis managed a satisfied smile. "It's really nice because I'm low-income," she said. "These would normally cost $120 at least. I'm going to put them in Christmas cards and send them to family."
Elizabeth Bioteau, the housing authority's family self-sufficiency coordinator, said it's nice to offer the "no cost" gifts so close to the holidays. It's also helpful, Dickinson notes, because many people are poised to lose their unemployment benefits this month unless Congress acts.
By mid-month, all participants will receive a CD with professionally edited pictures, plus a printed 8-by-10 portrait. The photographers agreed to release all copyrights so that families can e-mail the shots, print copies and post them on social networking sites as desired.
Tim Cunningham, who posed with friend Mary Angus and his terrier-mix T-KO, plans to display the picture in his studio upstairs. "It brings home back home," he said.
"It's heartbreaking and very emotional how grateful some people can be," said Guy Wheelwright, a volunteer photographer who normally catalogs architectural images for his San Francisco-based company. "It sure is a nice feeling though; we love doing it."
So did 65-year-old Kathy Ehlers, who said she went to fashion and modeling school in her 20s. Wearing a worn blue dress and purple flip-flops, the formerly homeless woman extended her curled right arm above her head for one pose. Afterward, she said the photo session rekindled her years as an aspiring model.
"It reminds me of that," she whispered.