Student Briand Sanderson photographs a family in the Portraiture in Public Service course.

Portraiture in Public Service is a program where I take advanced photography students to homeless shelters in the Puget Sound area, where we set up a portable photo studio and take pro-bono family portraits for the residents staying there.

This program came about when I was volunteering with Birthday Dreams, a charity that provides party supplies and gifts for children at shelters in the area. As I photographed the party, some of the families asked whether they could have copies of the photographs I took. They explained that they had no printed photographs of them, together, as a family.

I was helping to develop the photography program at Bellevue College at the time and was working specifically to develop opportunities for advanced photography students to work under real-world conditions where they would have to create photographs not just to stretch their own skills, but to meet the expectations and desires of a real customer.

Briand processes and prints photographs for a family as part of Portraiture in Public Service.

Portraiture in Public Service emerged as a way to get photography students doing work that's bigger than themselves, and to provide displaced families with studio time, one-on-one attention from a trained photographer, and printed photographs.

The program is in its second year and I'm endlessly appreciative that my students and I have had the opportunity to produce hundreds of photographs for dozens of families. I'm also grateful for ongoing support from Birthday Dreams and Bellevue College, and to the The Washington Lawyers for the Arts, who resolved important legal questions in establishing the prgogram.

You can enroll in Portraiture in Public Service by visiting its its listing on the BC website.

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