Help Portrait Prescott: A new event of ‘creativity and empathy’ for people struggling in life
Updated as of Sunday, December 2, 2018 5:05 PM
EDITOR'S NOTE: This story has been updated from a recent version to correct the number of worldwide portraits.
Scott Bideau is a newcomer to Prescott with a penchant for photography.
But his passion goes beyond taking pictures to hang on his living room walls.
The 40-year-old software sales executive is all about showcasing through photographs the beauty in people who may struggle with self-esteem and self-worth, be it a homeless man or woman, a victim of domestic violence, a veteran, someone with a disability or anyone who might be somehow disenfranchised.
He embraces the notion that capturing the images of such folks is the “perfect intersection of creativity and empathy.”
On Saturday, Dec. 8, the organizer of Help Portrait Prescott — an all-volunteer, once-a-year local chapter of a Nashville-based organization started in 2008 by celebrity photographer Jeremy Coward that now counts some 400,000 worldwide portraits of people in need — will host the glamour-style, first-time professional photographic session for 75 clients of area non-profit agencies.
For about 45 minutes, each of these individuals will be treated like celebrities by four volunteer hair stylists and makeup artists preparing them for their session complete with bright lights and fancy, short and long lens cameras wielded by two professional photographers. Six other volunteers will be available throughout the day to assist the clients with whatever they might need. At the close of the session, each guest will be given one 11 x 14 framed portrait. They, too, can get digital images for use on a resume or job application.
“I want these people to think they are at a major New York studio shoot,” said Bideau, who lives in Prescott with his wife, Shelley, and their children, Ethan, 9, and Chloe, 7. The entire family volunteers at these events. “The whole point is for our guests to feel valued as much, or more, than someone who could pay $1,200 for a professional session.”
GIFT TO ALL
One of his favorites is of a developmentally disabled young man photographed with his girlfriend. He asked for two framed portraits; the standard is one. When asked why he needed the second, the young man said he wanted to mail one to his girlfriends’ father to win his approval of their relationship.
Bideau was touched by the sincerity, his motivation not unlike that of any other young suitor. So he made an exception.
Coalition for Compassion and Justice Executive Director Jessi Hans said Bideau proposed his plan for the event at a local Quad-City Interfaith Council meeting and she was taken with his genuine desire to provide such a gift to those who might never before have had such an opportunity. This is not the first time such a service has been offered, but Bideau is seeking to broaden the reach, she said.
She said she thinks it is “super cool” when someone wants to brighten the lives of others with no expectation of anything in return.
From nearly a decade of doing this work in other cities before moving to Prescott from Steamboat Springs, Colorado, a year ago, Bideau knows the investment of the volunteer hours and about $2,000 in costs is “well worth it.”
Help Portrait Prescott is not an official nonprofit and so donations are not tax-deductible. Yet, Bideau said the stories behind past portraits has prompted unexpected generosity from businesses and others.
One gentleman who applied for a Steamboat Springs session found out about the portrait sitting from a card left at a nursing home. At the time of the sitting, Bideau knew little about the man. Then a while later he saw the portrait with his obituary — the 85-year-old known as “Grandpa Gerald” was a retired educator and member of the area ski patrol who was beloved by family and friends.
Indeed, Bideau said he has discovered through the stories of those who come to Help Portrait sessions that other than the good fortunate of family and “a little luck” there is “very little different between them and me.” He said he was raised in a family that believed in championing the “underdog.”
Beyond organizing and covering costs for the event, Bideau offers his photo skills year round to other non-profit agencies as a way of “giving back to the community.” All net profits from his personal photography is donated to local charities. In Prescott, Bideau has donated to Help Portrait Prescott, the Prescott Unified School District arts program, the Prescott High School photography program, and Acker Night.
“You just never know how much of a blessing these photos can be to somebody,” Bideau concluded.
For more information, you can visit the website: www.scottbideauphotography.com