'Portrait Army' puts deserving teens in focus

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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WCAV) -- At a time when most people take pictures on a cellphone, the high school senior portrait can pose a challenge.

For inclusion in the yearbook, many schools require a high-resolution photo that's not a phone photo. Unfortunately, professional photographers may charge hundreds of dollars for a portrait session, putting the experience out of reach for some students.

Enter Jen Fariello, a high-end wedding and portrait photographer in Charlottesville, Virginia who saw the need and decided to do something by launching an initiative that's now called The Portrait Army. Half a dozen photographers and several hair and make-up artists volunteer their time and talent to give a portrait experience to about two dozen deserving teens.

Fariello says the idea for The Portrait Army was sparked after she was contacted last year by a social worker wanting her to photograph a teen in foster care. Fariello said the young woman showed up for the photo shoot but wasn't feeling confident.

"She needed more," said Fariello, who quickly arranged for hair and make-up and a new outfit for the girl.

The transformation, she said, was remarkable.

"The way she bloomed in front of the camera was something I'd never seen before, and it made me want to do more," she said.

As senior picture time rolled around this year, Fariello put a call out on her Facebook page asking people to help connect her with teens from lower income homes who needed senior photos.

The response was enormous.

"So many people wanted to help, volunteer, thought it was a great idea," she said.

With donations of gift cards, volunteers took a group of teens shopping. Then professional photo shoots took place on location around Charlottesville.

Charlottesville High School senior Deveny Watson said she was thrilled by the offer.

"It's just nice that they're doing this for free, all the works, make-up and everything," she said.

CHS senior Jaquan Wood said he was also excited.

"It was an opportunity I couldn't really pass up on because senior is my last year," he said.

And both teens were already thinking ahead to getting the final product: prints for their families.

"My family is going to be so excited," said Watson. "I already imagine them having my photo on the refrigerator, everywhere inside the house. It's going to be great."

Read the original version of this article at newsplex.com.

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