Last week I blogged about the fact that two photographer friends and I were headed to Houston to volunteer for Focusing Forward Houston, and that we'd be taking family photos for the victims of Hurricane Harvey.
Before we left, the Boston Globe got in touch, and they ran an article about the event. (If you want to read the article, you can click this picture where I look like I just tasted something sour 😉 -- I swear I was smiling in the other 100 photos the photographer took!)
And now I can tell you guys all about it. It was really an incredible day.
The thing is, my season isn't over yet -- I have a few more clients left to shoot and edit... so I was feeling a little guilty setting that work aside, but I packed as much of it up on the laptop as I could, and hopped on the plane on Friday afternoon with my photographer friends Bill and Sharon.
I’m writing this blog post on my phone on the plane home, and I realize maybe it’s be easiest to tell the story of our trip to Houston’s Focusing Forward event using my Instagram stories.
So we left on Friday, Dec 1st, from Logan. We sent this photo of the three of us to the Focusing Forward Houston Facebook group of photographers and volunteers just as the pilot asked us to turn off our phones.
Got some editing done on the way, holla!
When we landed, Focusing Forward’s organizer Mike Fox and his family had invited us to meet them for dinner at Chuy’s - and we got to have some really fantastic TexMex. It was fun meeting them in person and great to get to talk about what to expect (85 families had signed up!) before Saturday.
Then naturally, on Saturday morning we started the day with Texas-shaped pancakes.
Even after we left our suitcases at the hotel, we still had a pretty enormous pile of photography equipment to bring over to the event. Thank goodness for wheels on suitcases.
On the way, our Uber driver told us about how he and his family were having a hard time after their home flooded, because the deductible on their insurance was $3200, and pulling that kind of money together wouldn’t be easy... 😳
When we arrived we got going with setup right away.
Once we got started, the families arrived and we were off to the races.
I didn’t tend to ask about people’s experiences with the hurricane while I was taking their picture (as you can imagine), so I didn’t hear a lot about it from the people who came for photos. Some new friends we made at the event shared really scary stories of friends who'd had to swim out of their neighborhood in 8 feet of water with kids on their backs... just horrifying stories.
After we finished, one mama explained to me that her daughter was taking a little time to play in an open area nearby because the RV where her family of five was living was really cramped.
I also got thinking about all these babies we were seeing. These tiny babies whose families would normally go get tiny baby pictures done somewhere, but it’s just not a priority right now. You can tell they’ll get back on their feet eventually — they’re strong, resilient, proud Texans — but that it could take six months or a year. And in six months their baby will look completely different. This one little thought made me almost start to cry.
And then this guy — the incredible Mike Fox who organized the entire event — Mike said he met a family who went back to their flooded home and one of the first things they saw was their son’s school photo, wet and destroyed.
The legwork behind this event was absolutely extraordinary. No stone left unturned, Mike and his family took this on and made it into the success that it was.
When we noticed the photographers weren’t really eating the food Mike and the awesome Deirdre had gotten for us, Angi and Deirdre immediately agreed we should give it the the remaining families coming through for pictures. The kiddos definitely appreciated it.
All over the room, photographers were absolutely rocking it, making kiddos smile all day, from 11am-5pm.
And we can’t forget the all-important customer service end of things - the review stations.
Somewhere along the way, we took this group shot (sadly missing our front lobby Lightroom team, since they were still working with families)...
And by around 5:30pm, we were all puddles — the last family departed. When all was said and done, we’d taken photos for over 100 people over the course of the day.
And now, since I’ve gotten you all invested in our travels, I feel like I need to finish off the Instagram stories from the rest of the trip.
Haha... TLDR; aaaand we got a flight home later, thanks so much guys.
But if you’re interested... We had a slow morning at the hotel... Boston babies still needed to be edited, so I got some of my work done... Then we had to check out and needed a place to store all our camera gear before the early evening flight home to Boston.
Lo and behold, the Johnson Space Center has a place to store bags (for a fee, but they said they’d be locked and super secure) so we headed over.
And then we headed to the airport.
Then we sat at the airport for four hours until our flight left (aw, thunderstorms, aren’t you irritating?).
Aaaaand eventually it was time to board, phewf!
Thanks for reading. I feel extraordinarily lucky to have had a chance to go down to Houston for this event. The smiles on the families’ faces as they walked out of the studio space - it was really just a feel-good event.
Well done, Mike, and thank you!
I'm Jessica McDaniel, and May 2017 marked my 14th anniversary photographing babies and their families all around Boston.
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