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Michiana photographer offers military families special gift

NILES, Mich. – Professional photographers are giving military families in Michiana a gift only they could provide to troops serving our country overseas.

Photos for Soldiers is a program started by Clare DeHann, a professional photographer out of Niles, Michigan.

The program is designed for military families with loved ones overseas.

DeHann and nine other photographers all over the Michiana region are offering to shoot free photo sessions for military families, and then send the pictures to the brave man or woman fighting to protect the freedoms we enjoy.

At first, DeHann wanted to help fellow Niles residents, the Jackson family.

Jennifer Jackson is the wife of a soldier. She cares for their three year old and three month old daughters. “I work from the moment that I wake up to the moment that I go to bed at night and; even when I go to bed at night, I don’t get to sleep eight hours. I’m lucky to get four hours of sleep,” said Jackson.

Jackson leans on her mother and other family members for support while her husband completes his third tour overseas. He is currently in Afghanistan.

While money is tight right now, Jackson’s biggest concern is that her husband will miss the milestones of his daughter first year.

When DeHann heard about these concerns, she felt compelled to help the only way she could; by capturing those fleeting moments forever on film, or perhaps more appropriately on a secure digital (SD) card as a digital photograph.

DeHann decided to offer the Jackson family something they could not pay a professional for otherwise. “I said, let me take your pictures; let me go ahead and document this for you and I will send them out to him,” said DeHann.

It was an easy decision for Jackson to make. “I said of course, if you’re willing to do something like that, then we are too,” said Jackson.

But that offer took on a life of its own after DeHann started to share her gesture with other photographers on social media sites. Soon, photographers were asking how they could help.

Photographer Angel Music shoots near Benton Harbor. She has had family and friends serve in the military and jumped at the chance to participate. “I think it’s really important to help them preserve these memories,” said Music.

Bridgette Fries just moved to the South Bend area but has experience shooting in Utah. Her ex-husband is a member of the military serving overseas.

With a daughter of her own, Fries has been in Jackson’s shoes and is eager to participate. “They deserve to have something good in their life,” said Fries.

With the support of these women and several others, DeHann decided to turn her offer into a program and created a website and Facebook page for it.

Military families can contact her to get setup with a photographer in their area. The entire shoot is free and there is no obligation to buy anything, according to DeHann.

Such a generous donation of their time and expertise does have a downside for DeHann and the participating photographers. The time they spend working with the military families is time they aren’t making a living.

Some photographers, like DeHann, will spend hours with a family shooting a session, watching for those perfect moments to capture forever.

And for young professionals like Music, losing a day can make it tough financially. But that is not going stop her from following her heart. “It may not be the best business move, but that’s not important,” said Music. “It’s more important to just do it; I wouldn’t feel good about myself if I didn’t do it.”

For more information about the program follow the link to their website or look for their Facebook page.

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