Life Is Full of Simple Dreams

Today I had breakfast with a new friend. Kyle Chowning. Our conversation was energizing and the ideas were flying as we talked about life, where we’ve come from and where we are headed. It was just my kind of meeting and for the record… Kyle is a great guy… and he is a dreamer.


Part of our conversation was around, which was dreamed up by Jeremy Cowart. I had been watching people talk about Help-Portrait on twitter and then my friend Keely Scott told me more about it and what she did to be part of the 12/12/09 event in Nashville… A fascinatingly simple idea and one that Kyle gave me more detail about and how he was connected to the cause.

As Kyle told me about Help-Portrait, I started to think about this…

How many times have you had a simple dream that you thought would never be worth the effort?

How many business ideas have you had that seemed too simple to actually work?

Help-Portrait… One man’s dream…

  1. Find someone in need 2. Take their portrait 3. Print their portrait 4. Deliver their portrait

Sounds pretty simple? It is. Watch this video.

But what is amazing is how this idea and event spread like wildfire. Four months ago the site went up and the idea went out on the internet with Twitter and Facebook carrying it’s message and guiding people back to I really think simple ideas have the most impact.

The main event happened on 12/12/09 resulting in massive coverage online as well as major news outlets and taking place in over 40 countries. At the end of the day, 12/12/09, with on 43% of the locations reporting there were 17,200+ pictures taken, 1400+ photographers 2720+ volunteers and a major show of support from Kodak. Folks… this was just 43% of what was reported and the numbers have gone up dramatically since not to mention everyone else who is planning their own Help-Portrait event on a later date. This was one man’s dream….

Go back to 1952 and the Korean War. Evangelist Everett Swanson goes to minister to the troops during the war only to be devastated at the site of all the children orphaned living in the streets.

His dream?

Start an orphanage for 300 children. Nothing more… Nothing less.

Fast forward to December 2009. Everett Swanson’s dream is called Compassion International. Today Compassion is in 26 countries and with over 1 million children currently registered in the program.

One man’s dream… A simple dream… Help those in need.

These are just two examples of simple ideas dreamed up by two different men who wanted to use their sphere of influence to make a difference in the world.

Oh… and by the way. Because the internet gives us tools to market ideas, Jeremy Cowart spent ZERO dollars to market his dream Help-Portrait.

You can do that too.

Every cause needs a champion…

Time to go dream a little.

UPDATE: New Help-Portrait Results!

38,761 portraits GIVEN
7,905 photographers and volunteers
532 locations
41 countries


The views expressed here are those of a personal nature and do not reflect the corporate view of my employer or anyone else who employee my services.
  • Lindsey_Nobles

    Awesome post. Awesome idea.

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  • Cyndi

    Good post. Here is a link to my Help Portrait Group–only 2 of us so far but hopefully we'll grow:

    People should also check out "Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep," a nonprofit group of photographers that photographer terminally ill and still born children (depressing but such a good cause):

  • AnnieBlogs

    Good word, Spence.

  • Chownage

    Thanks Spence, for the kind words and for giving us permission to dream out loud, and big!

    • Chownage

      Oh, and for the fun of it, here are the official stats:

      38,761 portraits GIVEN
      7,905 photographers and volunteers
      532 locations
      41 countries

      Yes, it's amazing when you allow yourself to dream and then do something about it.


      • Spence Smith

        WOW!!!! that’s amazing!!!! thanks for your time today. i had a blast:)

  • torybee

    This is a timely post.

    Not more than 20 minutes ago I opened my first letter from the child I began sponsoring this fall from Compassion International. Yesterday I was "arguing" that I don't like short term mission trips because of various factors. (a group of people from my church are going to Togo next month….. but my pastor doesn't see it as "short term" because my church plans to have a long term relationship with them…. in fact, I think close to (or over?) 50 Togo kids are sponsored by people in our church through Compassion International.

    Yet…. I'm arguing that I don't believe in short term mission trips. And then I get this letter. A beautiful letter! My heart melts and I want to give Ayoko the world. I want to meet her. I want my whole family to meet her family. Silly I know. (and what happened to my nice rational arguments against short term missions?)

    Sorry…. It just really, really meant something to me, opening that letter from a small child in Togo.

    This Help Portrait sounds really amazing and kinda up my alley. I'm an amateur photographer. Started 16 years ago with film, now I've a DSLR. Photography is my passion; truly what I love and I've done similar things like this, only wishing that my photos were better because the people I photograph are truly beautiful.

    A few weeks ago my church had a Christmas Party with a ministry we partner with of women who are working out some problems in their life. I took my camera because I always take my camera. It was night, which means flash and even with an external flash, I don't like flash, yet I had so many of the residents coming up to me, asking me to take their photo with their friends; asking me for copies. As I took candid shots of their kids decorating the tree, a young mom was taking photos with a little disposable camera and I showed her in the LCD screen my photos of her kids and she started to cry, asking me to please send her the copies. The boy's fathers in jail; this is the first Christmas away and he'd love to see the photos.

    I take pictures of my kids all the time. Hundreds at a time. It really hit me how special it is and how I take this for granted.

    Love this ministry and I thank you for sharing it. I'm going to find out more about it. Thank you so much and I totally agree with all you've written here.