The Rapidian

GRadPics: Photographers to produce 700 senior photos

More than 700 GRPS high schoolers will have their senior portraits done thanks to a group of local photographers.
Underwriting support from:
Terry Johnston

Terry Johnston /Roberta F. King

It is a rite of passage that most 17 or 18 year olds go through: the senior portrait. The photographs appear in graduation invitations, yearbooks and kids hand them out to one another. But for many seniors in Grand Rapids Public Schools (GRPS), the reality is there will be no photo to mark the last year of high school because of financial issues. "We understand that many students in GRPS are on free or reduced lunch and most likely getting a professional portrait during their senior year probably isn't a high priority on the family's list. I think there are many different ways to win through efforts like this. Students receive a free professional photo to keep, print and to submit to their yearbooks. Grand Rapids Public Schools will have a digital photo documented history of the senior classes. The creatives will get to experience the joy of giving their gifts to others that might otherwise not be able to afford it," said Laura Caprara, whose social media company StellaFly is leading the project. GRPS is also a client of StellaFly.

Shooting photos of the class of 2012 was the idea of Terry Johnston. "Everyone deserves to be photographed, especially those who might not be able to get a professional picture otherwise," said Johnston. Johnston is a contracted photographer who works with StellaFly, shooting events around Grand Rapids. He and Caprara worked out the logistics of the photo shoots that will take place the week of December 12 at Creston, Central, Grand Rapids Montessori, Union, Ottawa Hills and City High Schools. In addition to Johnston, other local photographers have offered their time and talent: Tim Motley, Katy Batdorff, Michael Cook, Ryan Pavolich, Seth Thompson and Mitch Ranger will shoot with help from Marcel Thibert. Coordinating the project is Richard App.

The photographers will use the architecture of the schools for backdrops. "These old schools are so great," said Johnston. "I've been scouting locations for two days and they're filled with murals, arches, grand stairways and auditoriums that are begging to be shot. This will be fun for us and the kids, too"

"This is something I've been thinking about for a few years but I never dreamed I'd be able to do it and to this scale. With Laura's connection to GRPS it all came together.  There is no cost to the kids, this project is all about giving back," said Johnston. "And every photographer I asked to shoot said yes, on the spot"

When complete, the students will be able to access high resolution images from GRPS and StellaFly's Facebook pages.

"It's a blessing to work with creative individuals that have a vision of giving back. So much of what we as creatives do comes from a passion within each of us. To work alongside others that share that passion and who share their talents freely with others is truly inspiring," said Caprara.


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This is such an incredible idea. One more reason to be proud of Grand Rapids and the people that create such an inspiring environment.

Kudos to everyone involved in this project.  I can only imagine how special students will feel and how appreciative families facing tough times will be of this opportunity.  What a kind and thoughtful gesture! 

The key to this is the kids involved would normally never get their photo taken or go in the year book as a "no photo!" it's all about giving back, I saw a need and many creatives helped make it happen! It's not just me: it's Seth, Ryan, Mitch, Tim, Katy and Mikey - as well as the GRPS, Laura, Rich and Marcel. Everyone is a star this time around!

That's very cool! What a great gift to give these graduates, from some of West Michigan's finest photographers.