Student organizes professional photo event for cash-strapped

Hope Angelica

Too often, Morgan Rosario watched finances inhibit fun. 

Rosario, a Park High School senior, fumed at the realization that not everyone could partake in the same common milestones because of money. 

With her love of advocacy and photography, Rosario set out recently to give a memorable experience for everyone.

At only 18, Morgan Rosario organized the first local event for the worldwide Help-Portrait program, offering free, professional photographs to the community. Pampered by hair stylists and makeup artists, also free, followed by photos with friends, imagining a care-free and exciting atmosphere is easy. 

The Livingston event is from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 3 in the Park High School RecPlex, 102 View Vista Drive. Anyone may attend.

“It reaches out to people in the community that are often overlooked and forgotten,” Rosario explained. “Single moms who have never been able to take professional photos with their kids because the electricity, heat, water and food comes first. It’s for recovering addicts who struggle with self-image. Foster kids have awful images in their file which isn’t fair. I think they should have that great image to accompany them besides some deer-in-the-headlights look.”

Rosario mentioned Park High School senior photos, which are due before the winter holidays. As a senior expected to provide one herself, she knows the pressure for “perfect” with hair, makeup and image quality.

“There are plenty of families that can’t afford to send their kid to a professional photographer to give this great senior photo that everyone is expected to have. It’s a really big moment, and I don’t think it’s fair that some kids don’t get to have it,” she said.

She feels astounded and yet terrified that Livingston has yet to experience an event like this and that she is hosting it. She feels empowered and honored. 

“Holy stressful!” she said when describing how it felt organizing the event. 

She thanks her Career Internship class advisors Sara Mussetter and Meagan Lannan as well as Julie Anderson for their help, “so it becomes an event instead of a thousand different ideas stuffed into a day,” Rosario said.

“It’s been terrifying, stressful, nerve-racking and any of the above,” she said. “Grab out a thesaurus and find 10 more words, and they will probably fit.”

Through the help of a simple director’s kit and advice from thousands of Help-Portrait blogs, Rosario planned, organized and networked like a modern-day Christmas elf. She needed to spread the word. She contacted organizations such as the Livingston Food Resource Center, Abuse Support & Prevention Education Network (ASPEN), Learning Partners, L’esprit and Southwest Chemical Dependency. 

Of course, she needed photographers, photo editors, hair stylists and makeup artists for the project. She reached out to the community. She explained her story to folks like Monica Dahl with Monica Dahl Photography, Sarah Mussetter, Yellow Horse Photography, Cain McLeod, RaeAnn Nilan, Tara Campbell with Cowgirl Divas Salon, Ashlee Shoell, Peggy O’Neill and Andrea Danielson. 

“I never realized how big Livingston was until I reached out to network with all these people,” Rosario said. “I learned names I never had heard before in my whole life. We think we know everyone in Livingston, this teeny-tiny rural town in Montana. And then, you put together an event like this, network to everyone around who have the capabilities to help you, and Livingston suddenly becomes a lot bigger.”

Rosario applied for a grant from Livingston’s Community Closet Thrift Store. The board reviewed the grant request on Nov. 24. Her goal is $1,000. She said even a couple dollars improves the project.

“This event has the opportunity to reach so many lives and let people know that there are other people in the community that realize they are there and that we care about them,” she said. “It’s great to be able to put this all together, be the first person to do it for Livingston, contact all these people and get them working together. It is super powerful. 

“At the same time, if we didn’t have such a great community in Livingston, this would not be possible. If I didn’t have people willing to volunteer hours of their time that they would normally get paid thousands of dollars for, to do all this work, yet they’re doing it for free, it couldn’t happen.”