Giving Back

Several years ago, some friends and I decided to give back by using our photography. We reached out to several community centers in the New York City vicinity and made arrangements to come in, setup our photo gear and provide a day of free family portraits to the underprivileged families there. People who have never had a family portrait before. A keepsake of loved ones, that they’ll have forever. Something to do where we can use our skills, share knowledge, and give back to those less fortunate.

We thought it would be a great way to bring some happiness to those families, and a way for us to practice the craft of photography. Most of us are passionate amateur photographers, looking for interesting subjects and places to photograph. None of us were ever interested in profiting, just a method to do something fun and give back to the community.

Several of our volunteers are professionals, thrilled to donate their time and expertise in giving back. The expertise ranges from professional photographers, retouchers, makeup artists, IT pros, graphic designers, to passionate amateur photographers like myself.

With some planning, we pooled our talent and organized the events. Since we began, our accomplishments have been incredibly rewarding. We’ve provided portraits for hundreds of families, from Chinatown, to Harlem. I’m incredibly proud of our volunteers, and most important the wonderful families we’ve given back to.

The families are incredibly thankful. Many shed tears of joy, and can’t beleive we are giving them a gift of a family portrait. We make everyone of our subjects feel like kings and queens for the day. It is a joy to be involved and I look forward to every event.

We’ve gained some recognition! Time Inc., honored us for our community service work and we won the Andrew Heiskel Community Service award. Along with the award came a grant which was used for some printing supplies and needed lighting equipment.

We continue to do our charity work in 2012, with plans to photograph families from the Heritage Health and Housing center, in NY.

Smiles Are Free is a 501C3 non-profit organization.

Some background
I’m a relative newbie to photography. For the most part, I’m self taught. Although I’ve been photographing for many years, I became serious just a few short years ago. I have much to learn. I shoot as often as I can and I keep up with my education with online courses and getting out to shoot as often as I can. It has brought me great joy. I love it as a creative outlet, and I enjoy the technicial aspects. Learning about cameras, lenses and all the associated gear is fun. But more important, enjoy giving back.

Volunteer for a cause, mentor someone, share your know how with others.

You’ll be a better person for doing so.


Ivan Boden
I'm a graphic designer and a photographer based in the New Jersey - New York vicinity. Ivan has photographed in theater and performing arts for nearly a decade and currently specializes in commercial, editorial, lifestyle, brand and corporate assignments.

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