I first became interested in photography at the wee age of five. I remember it had something to do with my Kindergarten crush’s father being a photographer – but that’s another story. Flash forward a Brownie Hawkeye, a Polaroid, an Aries, a Rolleicord, a Canon AE-1… later: now, I’m a little older and wiser and my interest has turned into something much more.
I am a photo enthusiast, but I’m also an active community volunteer in the Philadelphia area. A “passion for service,” someone said recently when describing me. I’m often seen at the hospital, my daughter’s school, or any number of social service organizations supporting the important work they do with my camera. But my photographic journey has just begun.
The Giving Smiles concept came out of my weekly volunteer work at a local hospital – a hospital where approximately 25% of the babies delivered are born to low-income parents. Hospitals and social service agencies receive donations of diapers, formula, cribs, car seats, blankets and other necessities. There are so many pressing needs for new parents. Every parent wants to be able to remember and share their child’s early years through pictures. Unfortunately not every parent can afford to go to a professional studio to have pictures taken.
I decided to combine my interest in serving the community with my passion for photography. For the past three years I have partnered with social service organizations that provide support to low-income parents. Every month I travel to my partner organization offices and set up a studio for the day. They typically schedule five portrait sessions per day. Small rooms, doorways, ex-credit unions, lobbies, playrooms – I’ve set up in them all because a smile knows no boundaries. My partners’ clients receive complimentary Giving Smiles portrait packages of a framed print, a CD with all images, and customized enlargements. It is a special moment when a parent says, “Smile, sweetie, it’s your first picture,” knowing that Giving Smiles will be giving them a set of portraits that they can share and enjoy for years to come.