Low income families get portraits of hope at YWCA

By Ariel Worthy

The Birmingham Times

Angelle Morris and her sons Bryce and Braylon getting their photos taken by photographer Amber Ford at the YWCA Downtown for Hope Portrait Birmingham. (Provided photo)
Angelle Morris and her sons Bryce and Braylon getting their photos taken by photographer Amber Ford at the YWCA Downtown for Hope Portrait Birmingham. (Provided photo)

In an era when photos can be taken with smart phones and uploaded and saved, portraits can be taken for granted.

Rabbi Barry Altmark, of Hope Portrait Birmingham, knows how important the photos are.

“A lot of us take our family history for granted,” Altmark said. “We get pictures of our kids at school, but we don’t realize that there are people on the street and in shelters that don’t have the ability to do these things.”

On Saturday, Hope Portrait Birmingham partnered with the downtown YWCA to have a photo shoot for low income families. The day consisted of mothers getting their makeup done by professional makeup artists, lunch, a photoshoot and free prints of the photos on the same day.

Hope Portrait Birmingham began four years ago when Altmark first heard about the movement, which started in Nashville.

While many schools offer portraits, Altmark said he noticed that some children wouldn’t get them done.

“A lot of the families move around a lot, and kids don’t stay at schools long enough, so they don’t get to have portraits done, and if they do, mom can’t afford them,” he said. “She has other things to worry about like getting food on the table.”

Angelle Morris attended the photo shoot with her two sons, Bryce, 12, and Braylon, 7, for photos for the first time in almost 7 years.

“The last time we had professional photos done, my youngest son was an arm baby, and he’s 7 now.” Morris said.

Being able to have their photos taken isn’t something Morris and her sons get to do often, she said.

“It’s a memory for them, and photos are everlasting memories and this is actually a good memory,” she said. “They have more bad memories than good, and I want them to have something good that they can actually see to look back on.”

Independent make up artist Somica Spratley talks with a client as she does her make up for Hope Portrait Birmingham. (Provided photo)
Independent make up artist Somica Spratley talks with a client as she does her make up for Hope Portrait Birmingham. (Provided photo)

The set-up for the day was for women to go to the makeup room while children were being entertained. After parents were finished, photos were taken and while the photos were edited and printed, families had lunch and picked as many photo frames as they wanted.

Being able to serve the families was a privilege, said makeup artist Somica Spratley.

“Everybody is so kind, and they appreciate it so much which is totally different from being on set, where you occasionally get a thank you,” she said. “Here you get to sit down with people and get to know them and hear their stories.”

With makeovers, the women are transformed and have a new confidence, Spratley said. “We see it as makeup but this is something that means a lot to them.”

This is Spratley’s second year volunteering with Hope Portrait and she has noticed the impact on families.

“Some of the people I have met are at rock bottom and don’t have anything,” she said. “Who would have thought a picture would be so important? But it is; seeing yourself looking your best and smiling can be a great thing to look at when you’re having a hard time.”