[image-1]On the Sunday after Christmas, a team from the Charleston Center for Photography visited the area’s tent cities to continue an annual tradition: offering their talents and time to those who otherwise couldn’t afford photography.

Residents of the makeshift communities were given the opportunity to have professional portraits taken, prints of which they can give to friends or family. The project was a continuation of an ongoing effort led by the center’s owner, Mahmood Fazal, to give a unique gift to those in need.

“When I took over the center a couple of years ago, the one word that I kept repeating over and over again to the people who were a part of the center was ‘community,’” says Fazal. “I said, ‘We need this to be about community. What I didn’t realize at that time is the photography community is an important thing, yes, but I’m realizing that the photography community needs to serve the overall community. That’s what it’s really about.”

In previous years, a group from the center has participated in Help-Portrait, an international initiative occurring each December that involves photographers and stylists taking and delivering free photographs to the less fortunate. In 2014, volunteers from the Center for Photography donated their time at the North Charleston Dream Center, offering free family portraits for the holidays. This past December, with the growing presence of tent cities under Charleston’s roadways, Fazal knew it was time to focus on the individuals he says often go unnoticed, while reminding himself and his fellow photographers why they started taking pictures in the first place.

“We drive over these people, if you think about it. They are literally underfoot,” says Fazal. “We’ve heard stories about how someone hasn’t had their picture taken in years or their family hasn’t seen them in years, so it will be good to give them these pictures.”

He added, “There was one gentleman who showed us pictures he had saved over decades. He pulled out his wallet and said, ‘These are my brothers. This one’s no longer alive.’ It reminded us that a printed photograph has a lot of value. When we take these pictures back to the people who are there, they are more likely to hold on to them for a long time. It’s going to remind them about where they were in that time of their life when they move on.”