Your Light International
Family photos are treasured keepsakes. Your Light International aims to support families by providing professional portraits to preserve family stories and culture.
The volunteer group of photographers was started by Anna Harrison 3 years ago. "I’m a photographer and several years ago I was in a rut and feeling dissatisfied," she said. "I wanted to do it for families who would truly appreciate having that gift of a photo."
Harrison had previously spent some time living in the developing country of Armenia. Many of the people there had nothing more than their passport photos and after a loved one passed away, they would hang that photo on the wall. "I imagined how happy they would be to have a beautiful family photo to hang up, to have pride in, to hold onto. I came to feel that a simple, nice, family photo is something that every person should have," she said.
Harrison researched to see if there was any organizations like that she could join, and found out there was a gap in this area. While some organizations worked with hospitals to provide photos of stillborn babies or kids with a terminal illness, no one was focusing on family photos.
Harrison partnered with and was mentored by another Utah photographer, Chris Dickenson, and Your Light International was born.
Your Light International partners with different organizations to reach those families that may not be able to afford the high sitting fees of a family portrait session. Harrison said this includes more families than you would think. Local photographers volunteer their time and equipment to take family photos at Your Light International and partner events.
Photographers take their time with the families involved to make it a good experience that never feels cheap or rushed. They often engage the children by letting them take some pictures of their parents. Harrison remembered one mother who got emotional just watching her daughters take pictures of each other and being showed so much kindness.
Other tearful parents have expressed gratitude for getting a picture of their whole family together.
She has often received thanks from someone whose family member has passed away. They say the photos her organization took are the only ones they have with that person.
Your Light International gives each family a printed 8x10 and a disc of all of the other images, which the photographers also volunteer their time to edit.
"It's not a little thing," Harrison said. "You have to focus on the basic needs but it’s nice to be able to provide a little bit more, to say, 'This matters too and you’re worth it.'"
Your Light International relies fully on volunteer photographers to get their work done. They are always looking for more volunteers. "The more people involved, the more photos we can give," she said.
Harrison said they thank their volunteers by providing free photography workshops and get-togethers for volunteer photographers.
The charity also relies on donations for printing supplies, to book places for events, and to provide snacks for their photographers while working.
In the past they have worked with the several charities and organizations to provide photo shoots around the state.
Harrison hopes to expand to surrounding states and is working on partnering with another charity organization to accompany them and take family photos in the Philippines next year.
To get involved, visit YourLightInternational.org.
Harrison believes everyone has the chance to make a difference. "It's powerful if we look at the talents we do have. Even if we think there’s no way to give back with that there is."
A Your Light International Volunteer takes a family portrait.