Portraits of Love Inspires Holiday Cheer for
Military Families

Portraits of Love Inspires Holiday Cheer for
Military Families


The holidays can be a particularly difficult time of the year for military families who have loved ones deployed overseas. During a season when families gather together to share festive meals or excitedly exchange presents, military families find one seat empty at the dinner table or one gift left unwrapped. It’s a physical and, for many, a painful reminder of the great sacrifices our military and their families make each day. 

For the past two years, the Portraits of Love project has worked to provide military personnel with a small reminder of home during the holiday season, while giving their families one more way to show their love and appreciation. Portraits of Love supplies free family portraits that can help lift up members of the military in ways that only photography can accomplish, and sustain them through the hardest weeks on the calendar.

Families participating in this project were able to schedule a free portrait session at their local JCPenney Portraits locations or independent photography studios to receive a free portrait sheet for their home. At the same time, a second portrait was shipped to their loved ones serving overseas. 

This seemingly simple act of gratitude for our military involves the efforts and consideration of many dedicated people and companies who are still hard at work making this mission a success. The Portraits of Love project was initiated by the PhotoImaging Manufacturers and Distributors Association (PMDA), a photography trade organization that brings together some of the most recognized brands in the photography community, and Soldiers’ Angels, a volunteer-led nonprofit providing aid and comfort to the men and women of the United States armed forces, and their families. 

The project aims to deliver 10,000 free family portraits each year to troops spending the holidays on deployment overseas with the financial backing of photo industry stalwarts like JCPenney Portraits, Canon, Fujifilm, Nikon, Olympus, Sony, SanDisk, Roxio, Bonnier Technology Group, Digital Photo Academy, Photo Industry Reporter and SeeHere.com. 

“Last year, the photography community was overflowing with support for this program, and we saw that same enthusiasm again this year with industry-wide advocacy, as well as the irreplaceable time and talent donated by JCPenney Portraits and local photographers across the country,” said Joellyn Gray, president of the PMDA and director of Marketing at Fujifilm. “The number of studios who volunteered both this year and last is particularly heartening. Those businesses saw the value they were able to provide the military families and, like many of us involved in the Portraits of Love project, were very touched by this experience.”

This was the first year families were able to visit any of the hundreds of JCPenney Portraits locations nationwide, in addition to more than 250 independent photographers.  Volunteer photographers range from Sony Artisan of Imagery and Pulitzer Prize winning photographer Brian Smith, who participated in the Portraits of Love’s on-base 10-day photo session at Fort Hood in Killeen, Texas, to independent studio owners like Regina and Brian Ceryak of Blue House Photos, located in Naugatuck, Connecticut.  

“I will definitely cherish the opportunity to photograph military families at Fort Hood as part of the Portraits of Love project,” said Smith. “These brave men and women and, lest we forget, their families, sacrifice a great deal so that people they have never met are able to safely celebrate the holidays in the comfort of their homes. It is an honor to help spread some of that holiday cheer to those deployed so far away from their own homes.” 

“I jumped at the opportunity to help with PMDA’s Portraits of Love project,” said Brian Ceryak. “Through all the hustle and bustle of the holidays, we sometimes forget about our military working so hard overseas to make it possible for us to celebrate and give thanks for all we have during the season. Even as I was dangling from a ladder photographing a family of 23, I couldn’t help but think how great the person on the receiving end of that portrait was going to feel.” 

The 2010 Portraits of Love project began in September and ran through to the end of November to ensure that all of the portraits would be received in time for the holidays.  Next year’s Portraits of Love project is expected to expand even further as the initiative and demand continue to grow.  

“Of course it is rewarding to do something that you know is worthwhile and shows the appropriate respect for these families, to whom we owe so much,” added Joellyn Gray. “But this also reminds all involved how powerful photography can be in our daily lives, and that’s what makes this really special for those of us in the industry who continue to participate. We’re sharing what we know and love with those who deserve our appreciation.”

For more information about PMDA and the Portraits of Love project, or to learn how to participate, visit pmdaportraitsoflove.com