Professional photographers are used to taking pictures of the privileged — models, actors, athletes and other celebrities.
Jeffrey Salter typically shoots for Sports Illustrated and Us Weekly. But one April afternoon in New Jersey, the photo shoot focused on children up for adoption.
"We as photographers have been given a gift you know we travel around the world documenting kings, queens, celebrities. But here's a chance for us to give a gift back," says Salter.
Salter is one of 150 volunteer photographers taking pictures of kids in need of parents. With the help of talented artists like him, these children get the chance to show off their true colors.
The numbers are hard to hear. Nearly 130,00 children in the U.S. public welfare system are waiting to be adopted. Most are eight-years-old, or even older. These older children are among the hardest to place. Many passed from home to home, enduring neglect, indifference and sometimes violence. The older the children get the more challenging it is because it seems that most of the families want smaller children.
The volunteers capture the essence of the more than 3,000 New Jersey children currently up for adoption. All of the portraits go to an exhibit called .
With help from the pros, the kids' personalities pop. Hopefully, the adults who see it, in person or online, will make a connection, and adopt.
The first Heart Gallery took place in New Mexico in 2001. Since then, organizers say more than 10 have been held throughout the country, resulting in the adoption of well over 100 children.
"I have been recording history for 20 years as a photojournalist," says Najlah Feanny Hicks. "I could actually help to determine the history, the future of a child and that's a really powerful incentive."
"I hope I can find a nice family and be with them for the rest of my life," says 12-year-old Jamal who needs a place to call home. So do Isaiah, Bill, Curtis and Ashley — all ready for these photographs to help them find a family. These pictures, tell their stories and, perhaps, refocus their future.
Jamal, one adoptive child in-waiting, says it's essential for him to take these photos. "People out in the world want a kid to adopt," says Jamal. "Maybe they can't have a son or they need a son to help them or something."
Jamal wants to be that son.
This Heart Gallery exhibit is scheduled to open June 12 in New Jersey, but the children are available for adoption out-of-state. The gallery's generated four million hits in just over three weeks.