Headshots for HaitiWhen photographer Jordana Zeldin saw the reports of destruction and death in Haiti following the devastating earthquake there last month, she knew she wanted to help the people of Haiti – but didn’t know how.

“I actually felt kind of bad that I wasn’t a doctor,” Zeldin says, “and I was trying to think, ‘What can I do to help as a photographer stuck here in New York, without access to what’s going to on down there?'”

Zeldin realized that her skills as a headshot photographer could be put to good use, though, and she decided to donate 50 percent of the money earned from her next few headshot photo sessions to Partners in Health, an organization that combats disease and poverty in poor communities that like of the nation of Haiti (where PIH has had a presence for over two decades).

A few days later, “like lightning, really, this phrase ‘Headshots for Haiti’ pops into my mind,” Zeldin recalls, “and I thought, okay, what does this mean? There’s no reason why other headshot photographers couldn’t do the same, that they couldn’t shave a little bit of income off the top of their sessions, which they’re already having, to donate to this cause.”

She immediately got on the phone and began recruiting some of the city’s top headshot photographers, who have pledged to donate anywhere from 10 to 50 percent of their earnings from headshot sessions throughout the month of February towards the new Headshots for Haiti fundraising initiative. Participating photographers now include Barry Morgenstein, Jordan Matter, Marianne Rafter, Nick Coleman, and more. With the help of these headshot pros, Zeldin hopes to raise at least $10,000.

“The incredible thing,” Zeldin says, “is that headshot photographers don’t really have the opportunity to speak to one another or collaborate very often. We’re basically competitors. But I thought his would be a really unique opportunity for us all to get to know one another and work together. We’re all doing the same thing on a day-to-day basis, but now for a greater cause.”

Thanks to her experience volunteering for Barack Obama’s presidential campaign, Zeldin knew that she would need a website and branding for her new fundraising initiative if she wanted anyone to take it seriously. She also created online profiles for Headshots for Haiti on social networking sites Facebook and Twitter. A designer friend provided the logo.

Zeldin encourages actors who need new headshots to consider choosing a photographer that is participating in Headshots for Haiti. Prices for these headshot sessions have not been inflated, but the amount of money donated from each photo session is at the discretion of each headshot photographer. “This is an opportunity to both do something for your career as an actor – because you know that a headshot is so important – while helping others. I think it’s not every day that you can achieve those two goals at once. For me, that’s the incentive to use a photographer who’s participating in the initiative.”

Headshots for Haiti may continue after February, but Zeldin says she wanted at least a one-month commitment and minimum 10 percent donation from each photographer. She has not limited their prices or schedule in any other ways. She also wants to make sure any publicity for the initiative does not undermine or overshadow its very real fundraising goals, and leaves it up to each individual photographer to decide for themselves how they want to advertise their participation.

“I had no idea if I’d get a warm response or a tepid response, or how people would react,” Zeldin says of her initial recruitment of headshot photographers. “But I was really surprised to find out that so many people were grateful that I called and grateful to speak to another headshot photographer in the city, because it’s just so rare that we come together for anything. In addition to helping the people over in Haiti, I hope to create a community of headshot photographers that lasts beyond the [Headshots for Haiti fundraising] initiative.”

For more info about Headshots for Haiti and learn how to participate, visit www.headshotsforhaiti.org, become a fan of Headshots for Haiti on Facebook, or follow Headshots for Haiti on Twitter.

Plus, it’s not too late for more headshot photographers to get involved and support Headshots for Haiti. To find out how to participate, email Jordana Zeldin at info@headshotsforhaiti.org.

This story was posted online Feb. 19, 2010 at Blog Stage.