If Henry James is right and life is a battle, then philanthropist and photographer Heathyr Harkless is on the front lines.
Having lost her father and sister to cancer, the founder of House of Hopes photography has witnessed first hand the painful and personal battles we wage.
A self-taught photographer, Harkless began her foray into photographic philanthropy in 2012 while shooting portraits to raise money for her adoption. Along the way, she would often donate her photographic talents to others in need. These requests were often for the most sensitive photos, such as premature babies in the NICU and families with a loved one in hospice.
After securing the funds for her own adoption, Harkless realized she could leverage her "passion for people" and her talent for photography for the greater good of her Northern Indiana community. House of Hopes was born.
Through her non-profit, Harkless will offer free "gifted sessions" for a variety of sensitive occasions, including "bundled blessings" which focuses on the loss of an infant child, or "little prizefighters" which centers on children fighting life-threatening illness. Gifted sessions aren't restricted to the most solemn moments—soldier homecomings and adoptions are also featured.
Participants in House of Hope's gifted sessions receive the digital files and a print release. Harkless will often work with partners to include prints and photo books for these sessions as well. The images and stories are then shared on House of Hope's Facebook page, which often catalyzes local media attention and further aid from the community.
Given the often very sensitive nature of the environment and subject matter, Harkless says she keeps her photography simple. She uses natural light and a Canon 5D Mark III with a variety of lenses for her sessions.
While she acknowledges that she's often "in tears behind the camera," her dedication is unshakeable. "This," she says, "is my heart."