AS A FULL;TIME CELEBRITY AND PORTRAIT
PHOTOGRAPHER OF 12 YEARS, Jeremy Cowart knows
a thing or two about not only photographing people, but
quickly establishing a rapport with them. With subjects
like the Kardashians, Tim Tebow and Taylor Swi;, and
clients such as Discovery Channel, People and Universal
Records, Cowart’s portfolio is a diverse creative spectrum.
It also includes a charity of his own, Help-Portrait, which
has a simple mission: Find someone in need, take his or her
portrait, print it and deliver it.
PDN: How is Help-Portrait an example of how the
power of photography can have global impact?
JC: I’ve seen examples of photos literally changing lives. I’ve
seen people using their portrait as a new headshot to get their
;rst job and get back on their feet. I’ve seen elderly women
have their hair and makeup done for the ;rst time in their lives
through Help-Portrait. I’ve shown children their own faces for
the ;rst time in third-world countries. It’s crazy what can be
done with a camera and a printer and how simple it can be if
people just reach out and help. ;ese are powerful tools that
can heal, empower and give dignity to people when put in the
I helped oversee printing in the Nashville Help-Portrait events,
where each subject received either a few 5- x 7-inch or 8-x
-10-inch prints, depending on our supply levels. I’ve seen
every reaction possible over the years as a result of this: people
collapsing in tears of joy, people jumping for joy and people
staring in awe. And to top it all o; with high-end prints is such
a rewarding, beautiful experience.
PDN: You had an exhibition at the United Nations in
2010 that raised money for Oxfam to contribute to
earthquake relief funds for Haiti in 2010—how did
that come about?
JC: A;er the 7.0 earthquake rocked Haiti, I was deeply moved.
For days I watched as the television ;ashed images of gloom
and doom—dead bodies, crumbled buildings—it just felt like
a heartless display of numbers and statistics. “How were the
people feeling?” I wondered. So I decided to go to Port-au-Prince myself and ask them directly. My question was simply:
“What do you have to say about all this?” I used rubble I
had found and had them them write on it with art supplies I
had brought with me—visual tweets, if you will. Oxfam later
discovered the project and decided to hang it in the halls of
the U.N. in front of a crucial group of world leaders that were
gathering to pledge money to rebuild Haiti. I’m so honored
that my photos and project were used in that way.
PDN: How does the power of print tie into and help
both your professional work and your charity work?
JC: ;ere’s something about a physical print that will forever
outmatch any high-resolution screen. I just started working
with the Canon imagePROGRAF PRO-4000 and I’ve been
printing my personal work at 44 inches wide—it’s just mind-
blowing. ;e ease, the quality, the speed—every artist dreams
of seeing their work this large, this easily. I honestly can’t stop
printing here lately. I’ve already got people on social media
asking if I’m going to be selling prints of my work, which of
course is part of the plan. It’s insane what’s possible now with
these tools and printers.
PDN: How do you believe your work helps/pitches
into in the global conversation about diversity?
JC: I do hope my work is adding to the global conversation
about diversity. I’ve worked with every skin color possible in
over 30 countries—I’ve photographed the richest of the rich
and the poorest of the poor. I’m a storyteller, and I’m very
passionate about exploring the intersection of creativity and
empathy. If my art and prints can actually help someone or a
situation, then I am incredibly ful;lled as an artist. n
TOP: Cowart uses the Canon imagePROGRAF PRO-4000 to print
his personal work. MIDDLE: Cowart at work as part of Help-Portrait.
RIGHT: A personal image of Cowart’s, in which he combines his
photos in digital collages.
THE GLOBAL POWER
JEREMY COWART ON