The Daily Edit – The Portrait Project: Priscilla Gragg

- - The Daily Edit

The Portrait Project

Photographer: Priscilla Gragg
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Heidi: You started this in 2016, how has it evolved over the years?
Priscilla: Yes, it has evolved a lot! From lighting to color palette to the creatives that get involved, each year it gets better and better! It is always so fun to see the project come to life. Our first year was just me, hair and make-up and wardrobe stylist. Last year, aside from the crew that works on the photo shoot and get the kids ready, we had vendors coming in and collaborating with goodies for a tote bag for families. Other vendors brought in fun toys, books, accessories that families could shop around while kiddos were having their photos taken. I love supporting local businesses so bringing them in to be a part of our photo shoot was a no brainer! This year due to Covid the experience will be a bit different as we will be minimizing time on set and number of people.

Aside from your love of photography, what other emotions come from a project like this?
I believe that when people get together to do something for the good, there is a certain energy that happens and it is hard to explain. It is like magic. Usually when I am on a photo shoot, I have certain goals to achieve in order to help communicate my client’s message. There are lots of meetings, talks and planning about mood, feel, crops, spacing for type, etc. For The Portrait Project my only goal is to get the very essence of my little subjects. It is honest, organic, it is the simple action of capture who they are. Then the profits from the sessions go directly to purchasing children in need toys during the holidays. The idea of using my photography skills to give back to the community is overwhelming. To me, it is a simple thing to do, to the parents it means so much and to the children receiving the toys, I have no words! I have done lots of monetary donations to different organizations and different needs, however, the feeling of rolling up your sleeves and using this one talent you have to help someone you have never met and never will is truly amazing to me.

How did you overcome the Covid this year?
There was a lot of adapting. It has been a very humbling experience from the photography/business perspective. I was used to always working with a big crew of talented people and all of the sudden, I was wearing many hats: steaming clothes, prepping hair and skin, changing them, setting up lights, shooting and wrangling; then editing, prepping, organizing and sharing files. Finally, packing up clothes and dropping them off at the post office to be returned. That’s at least 5-6 different roles on set! I have always appreciated my photo and production crew but now I have a different level of respect for them! Things are changing these days and we can shoot with smaller crews while keeping it safe;I am truly excited for that! And for The Portrait Project, we are keeping a bare minimal of people on set: 1 family per 30 min. This gives us some time to disinfect in between sessions. Everyone is required to wear a mask and the kids get to take them off for photo time only. Parents will get to prep the kids, and they should arrive camera ready. All images will be selected by parents at a later time via Zoom call to minimize time on set. It is all a big adjustment but with a little creativity and hard work it can be done safely.

Why did you start this project? 
I grew up in Brazil and lived in a neighborhood that had shawty towns all around. During the holidays, my dad – who did not have much at all, would go purchase a few simple toys that me and my sisters helped deliver to the children at the shawty towns. Seeing the happy faces of those kids is something that stayed with me my whole life. I have two children of my own now and they are lucky that most of their holiday wishes come true, but I need them to be aware of the fact that is it not the case to every child. By creating TPP, it is my way to give back and plant that seed of hope that our girls will one day do the same. I also make sure to communicate with the families that come for The Portrait Project about how important it is for their children to understand how they are helping with the donations by participating in this project.

If someone wants to book a session or volunteer, how can they find out more? 
Booking a session is tricky because it sells out quickly, like last year within 5 minutes after going live. So the best way to know when they will be live and ready for purchase is by subscribing to our newsletter over at casastudiophoto.com . For volunteering please email studio@priscillagragg.com

What have you learned about yourself and your work by doing this project? 
That when you pour your heart into a project that is meaningful to you, it truly resonates with people. I have countless clients that came to me because they saw images or videos shot for The Portrait Project.

Heidi Volpe

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