Portraits for Prayer :: Its Conception

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Back in October 2012 this project came to mind after I visited my Great Uncle Shorty and Great Aunt Evelyn for the weekend. I drove up to see them after I received an email from my mom saying she was concerned about my Uncle’s condition. He had been experiencing extreme back pain that his doctors had not been able to relieve – even with the strongest of pain pills. My mom asked me to pray for him; but I wanted to do something, not just pray. I thought that just my presence there with them might help, and that trip was my effort to meet God part-way in helping my Uncle feel better.

I think my visit helped. Before I left that Sunday I decided to do a portrait of both my Uncle Shorty and Aunt Evelyn together,  knowing I was going to write a blog post, include the portrait, and ask people to pray for him. As I was walking out the door that day, Uncle Shorty looked at me and plainly said, “Keith. Please pray for me.” Something about those words and the way he said them was heartbreaking to me and left me wanting to do more for others in similar situations.

To understand the significance of what happened next, you should know that for months, years even, I had been praying to God –  asking, even begging Him in frustration – to let me know what He wanted me to do with the ability He had given me as a photographer. Starting out as a commercial photographer in a very competitive market – not to mention in the worst economy since the Great Depression – I struggled to make ends meet at times. I was too stubborn to give up. That wasn’t an option. Somehow, things worked out through the support of my family, friends, and God. It was as if He wanted me to stay in the business by giving me just enough to do that at times.

But I still felt frustrated. I felt like I had a world full of ability and potential, but I didn’t feel like I was living up to any of it. I felt like I couldn’t get ahead. So my prayer was simple: “God, you obviously put me here to be a photographer. Now please, let me know what you want me to do with that. I’ll do anything you want. Please just let me know, and I’ll do it.” I can’t tell you how many mornings I said that very prayer as I started work for the day at my desk and —  finally — He answered me.

That weekend after I left my Uncle and  Aunt’s home, the idea and name for this project hit me – with clarity. I started working out the details of the project in my head while driving through the North Carolina Mountains that afternoon. It all made sense to me, but it excited and frightened me at the same time. I felt absolutely certain God had answered my prayer though, and I knew I couldn’t ignore it. I’ve had this whole project in the works since then, and it has been a true labor of love.

I owe a huge thank you to a few key people:

Heather Wright of The Wright Attorneys :: Heather, thank you for your legal counsel for this project. You gave me insight on it from the perspective both of a friend and an attorney, and you have always been fair to me. That’s huge to me. Attorneys wouldn’t have such a bad reputation if they were all like you.

Bryan “bVo” Voliton of Salt and Sugar Design :: Bryan, thank you for doing such a great job with the branding for this project. You’re a designer’s designer. And after knowing you for eleven years, you still manage to give me the most refreshing outlook on life. I’m honored to call you a friend.

Don Giannatti :: Don, thank you for your help with bringing this idea to life online, and for your concern about how doing this project may affect me emotionally. Your concerns have not fallen on deaf ears; you’ve proven to me and many others that your thoughts are worth taking notes on. Thanks for being a friend – and just an all-around cool guy.

Joanna, thank you for having the patience to read, edit, and offer revisions on the written content for this project numerous times. My life and future feels much better and brighter, respectively, with you in it. I love you.

I also want to thank the handful of people (you know who you are) who gave me input in regards to this project. Your thoughts and insight both eased and frayed my nerves. Considering both the good and bad is a logical step in doing anything worthwhile in life though. Your thoughts have helped me wrap my mind around what feels like the most important and meaningful thing I’ve done in life.

Thank you to each of you who read this and come back to this site to offer your prayers for someone featured who needs them.