Free portrait day draws poignant pictures

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For several underprivileged people, it was the first time they were having their photos taken

Nguyen Van Quang, 80, has never had a picture taken in his life, and the portraiture day on December 10 seemed to be his last chance.

One of more than 2,000 people who attended the event to receive a free portrait of themselves, Quang came to the venue early morning on his bicycle after reading about the event in a newspaper.

Quang has drifted in Ho Chi Minh City over the years without a family. He lives on very little from his old-age pension. Because he has been away from his homeland in Ninh Binh Province for so long, his memory of it is vague. Yet he said he was taking the photo in a last-ditch effort to reunite with his relatives. After receiving the free photos of himself, Quang, a bit excited, said he would send the pictures to Ninh Binh and try to make contact with his relatives.

The event, called "Help portrait," is the Vietnamese version of a global movement of photographers who use their time, gear and expertise to give back to those in need. Begun last year, the day for free portrait making this year was launched by the District 1's Youth Union and Red Cross chapters with funding from Canon.

The event attracted more than 70 photographers and 30 volunteers in HCMC and Hanoi. About 2,500 portraits were taken, printed and given to many unprivileged people.

An old woman named Nam, for example, went to the Hoa Binh Elementary School in HCMC, where the portraits were being taken at about noon. Nam is from Hau Giang Province and earns money selling lottery tickets. Like Quang, Nam has never had any photographs taken of herself so far.

Among the thousands, one man was recognized at once. Lam Dong Vuong, wearing his tidy Vovinam (Vietnamese martial arts) uniform and a gold medal, stood out in the crowd. He had won the gold medal at the 26th SEA Games held in Indonesia last month.

Vuong said that during his coronation in Indonesia, no picture was taken.

"So I decided to revive that unforgettable moment by attending this interesting event" he said, smiling and showing off his photo.

The free portraiture event has taken place in more than 50 countries worldwide.

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