Rotterdam event brings back holiday picture-taking

Professional portraits offered for free
The Malloy family sits for a portrait Saturday.
The Malloy family sits for a portrait Saturday.

ROTTERDAM — In an era when many digital pictures are taken, but few are ever printed, the old tradition of the annual family holiday portrait, taken by a professional photographer, has become an all but forgotten luxury.

Schenectady residents David and Tara Bubar have custody of their 17-month-old granddaughter Kloie Bubar. David said for Kloie’s first Christmas they had a friend take a digital photo of her with them in front of a fireplace. They never printed the picture. 

Saturday the Bubars were among at least 150 local households to participate in the “Help-Portrait” event at the Messiah Lutheran Church, 2850 Guilderland Ave. The family received a free professional photo which was printed. A frame was provided for it. 

Kloie posed for pictures with Santa Claus, and, by all accounts, was well-behaved.

“We weren’t sure how she was going to react,” Tara said. 

“This is very nice. Her picture was taken with Santa and Grandma and Grandpa. We’ll hang this up,” David said. 

Help-Portrait is a global movement of photographers, hairstylists and makeup artists who provide their time and expertise to help spread the enjoyment of professional portrait taking.

Photographer Mike Desocio, originally from New Jersey, said he heard about Help-Portrait events when he was in high school about seven years ago and decided to get involved with organizing them. 

“I’ve kind of moved it around with me wherever I’ve gone,” Desocio said. “Last year is when I moved to [the Capital Region] for work, so that’s when I started it up here.”

Dustin Wright, pastor at Messiah Lutheran Church, said Desocio approached him about having the church host the event last year. Wright said he decided to combine the event with a Christmas party, with cookies and refreshments, arts and crafts and stories for children. 

“Mike had run it a number of years at college campuses and he wanted to bring it here,” Wright said. “Everything we do at Messiah Lutheran Church is about affirming the human dignity of everybody. From a Christian perspective, we are all created in the image of God, so what better way to affirm that? We do food pantries, we do food service projects. That’s all about providing people with a kind of dignity.” 

Wright said the 2018 Help-Portrait helped provide a portrait to a woman who had just escaped from domestic violence. 

“She got her picture taken, and she was able to recapture her humanity through it. It’s just a great community service event where the line between guest and volunteer blur,” he said. 

Funding for the event was provided by Thrivent Financial.

Desocio, who took some of the pictures, explained the value of a professionally taken portrait: “We’ve all got different lenses that we’re using. We’ve got a studio set up with different backgrounds and soft box lighting, that makes everything really bright. You take a selfie, it takes two seconds, and you don’t put any effort into it, but you come into a space where a photographer has professional equipment and spent time putting in a nice lighting environment, and can take time to put you into poses — that’s going to get the best version of you captured.” 

Since it was started more than a decade ago, Help-Portrait has held 3,049 events in 67 countries and provided 381,856 portraits taken by 75,442 volunteers, according to its website, 

Rachel Davis, a member of Messiah Lutheran Church, handled the makeup work Saturday with her assistant Haileigh Thiessen. They used the festively named “Elf Cosmetics” to provide foundation, lipstick, eye shadow and mascara to participants. 

“I try to do something with the eye shadow that will compliment the shirt they are wearing, unless it’s a little girl, then I let her pick her own color,” Davis said.

Schenectady resident Pat Rejack said she’s taken her grandchildren — Kalab Rejack, 11, Abby Rejack, 8, and Emma Rejack, 6 — to the Help-Portrait event each of the last two years.

“It’s really, good,” she said. “They’ve got a lot of crafts to do to make necklaces and little things to hang on your tree and then they take pictures. You can get your hair done, and then your makeup done,” she said. “They do a great job. Thank God for this.” 

While Kalab and Emma preferred the crafts, Abby said she liked the portrait process. 

“They put braids in my hair, and they did my makeup. I did this last year too. I feel happy,” she said. 

Categories: News, Schenectady County

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