Doing The Help Portrait In Diepsloot

All thanks to the bunch of generous donors who responded to my plea for funds to carry out the Help Portrait movement in South Africa, we have raised approximately SGD2,500 to date.

The actual Help Portrait movement – which is find a person in need, take their photo, print it and go back to give the shot back to them – happens once a year in December. In South Africa, we start as early as September and shoot all the way through to December, because there are so many opportunities to give portraits here. There’s a small group of us that are so eager to give portraits that we want to shoot even when Help Portrait South Africa hasn’t officially begun. =)

With the help of the donors mentioned above, we can now do it.

Our first stop was to shoot for up to 1,600 students, teachers and staff of the Diepsloot Combined School. Diepsloot is one of the largest townships (squatter towns) in Johannesburg and one of the poorest too. There are about 150,000 people living in the shacks of Diepsloot and they battle with water, electricity and food problems every day.

Diepsloot Combined School

So, one sunny morning, a bunch of volunteers set off at 8am to carry out this exercise for the school. I was still jet lagged from my trip to Singapore and had slight doubts about whether we would actually accomplish what we had set out to do – shoot portraits for hundreds of people in one morning.

The kids were very well behaved and waited in line excitedly for their turn to have their portraits taken. We shot portraits for kids from Grade 1 to Grade 12 and had to manage a huge group of students, from little kiddies all the way to teenagers. It was no easy task.

Kids in the queue.

Fooling around while waiting for their turn to have their picture taken with me (behind).

The day went by so smoothly. And it was because we had several volunteer photographers for the day. They took time off from work and kids to be here to contribute.

We also had another group of volunteers who did the amazing job of organising the classes, ushering, lining the kids up, and prepping them for their shots.

Although some of the older kids needed no help to doll themselves up for the shoot. LOL!

The hubby took the day off from work to give us moral support, and to take “environment shots” for the day. All the shots in this post were done by him.

I love it when he’s around to document the work we do, and to capture the small special moments I had with the kids.

I was telling this little girl that she’s beautiful and not to be nervous..

A shot of me in a most unglamourous position, checking the shots in my camera..

We had an incredible day and managed to complete the entire exercise according to plan and to schedule. Everyone of us was exhausted by the time we were done, but we were all happy and excited. We cannot wait to come back again in August when school starts after their winter break to give their shots back to them.

Here is the group of volunteers (plus the hubby who took this shot) who made it all possible for Diepsloot Combined School.

I have to go process the couple thousand of shots for printing now. *gulp*

Thanks again to all the donors who provided us with the funds to do this. Your generous contribution has inspired and motivated us to keep doing the Help Portrait, and to give more people in South Africa a chance to own a portrait shot of themselves.

What is Help Portrait?

Watch this video. It says everything about what it is.

Help Portrait will be held on 8 December 2012 across the world.

In South Africa, you can register as a volunteer right away at Ubuntu Help Portrait.

All my blog posts on my involvement in Help Portrait are archived here.




  1. Thanks for inviting us to be part of this phenomenal project Karen! It truly was a pleasure – and a learning experience – to be involved. Now, I’m intimidated by the thousands of pics to process….*phew*

  2. Inspiring work!!

  3. Amazing :)

  4. It was an amazing day, now to process the photos… Eek!

  5. This is incredible Karen! Such an amazing initiative you’re involved in! Let me know next time you go, even if it’s on a week day I’ll try and take off work :)

    Hopefully we can meet up soon, I miss the expat gang!


  6. Congratulations to you and the team Mrs on an outstanding achievement. Awesome, awesome!

    To the best of my knowledge, and probably in the H-P world, this is the largest single number of portraits taken in a single session 😉

    I think that deserves another round of…….tea 😉


    • We aren’t sure of the final numbers yet. But definitely in the thousand. We also shot teachers, staff and class photos. It was quite amazing. Haha..

      • No matter the final number Mrs, nothing can take away that you gals and guys got together and just did it!


  7. Absolutely awesome Karen. A mega big Congratulation (hug) for you. A record and so impressive. Well done. Regards to Hubby.

  8. Thank you, thank you, thank you for giving me the chance to be part of something so unforgettable! Hugss!!

  9. Ooooh, thanks for posting these shots, something i haven’t even begun to sort through yet in my quest to get all the portraits processed first. A big thanks to the hubby for documenting all these precious moments! Okay, only 900 or so more portraits to process. Yes, gulp!

  10. Hi Bing,
    Found your blog through Our Everyday Things and I am totally hooked. You are the first in my Blog Inspirations list. Do you happen to know if there’s a Help Portrait project here in Singapore? I also blog for a purpose. It would be an honour to be included in your blog list someday. :)

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