Giving back to the community has always been important to local photographer Nina Pomeroy. After contributing to a volunteer photography program for less than a year, Pomeroy has created life-changing experiences for those she captures.
The national nonprofit organization, Portraits for Patriots, allows photographers to work with veterans and provide professional headshots for transitioning members of the military. Pomeroy began volunteering with the nonprofit at the start of the year and has since developed a deep appreciation for the work she has produced.
"I've always wanted to give back to my community and I know that for a fact that I wouldn't be able to do what I love and have my liberties if it wasn't for the sacrifice of so many that served our country," said Pomeroy, who owns Nina Pomeroy Photography based in Pleasanton.
Pomeroy recalled being informed through friends about the organization Portraits for Patriots. She was put in contact with the founder and eager to get involved.
"The whole premise of Portraits for Patriots is offering great headshots for those who are transitioning out of the service," she said. "I know how hard of a transition that could be for someone, and there is nothing like having great photos out on LinkedIn and social media that even help resumes to get started."
Transitioning service member Steven Gillespie first discovered Portraits for Patriots after seeing a post about the organization on LinkedIn and receiving a referral from a friend. Gillespie served 20 years in the U.S. Marine Corps and worked as an operations chief master sergeant.
After researching and applying for the program, Gillespie was connected with Pomeroy to capture his new professional photographs.
"It really put in perspective the transition period because most of the time when I was in the Marine Corps, all my photos were in a uniform," Gillespie said. "It solidified the transition between the Marine Corps and the civilian world."
Gillespie recalled the positive impact the photoshoot had on his outlook and career change. Once he updated his LinkedIn profile with the new professional photographs taken by Pomeroy, he noticed his connections and credibility improve, giving him an overall boost in confidence.
"I think it's really important for veterans to get their photos taken," Gillespie said. "It would give them that confidence that they can stand out and present a very professional side of themselves."
Photography has been a passion for Pomeroy since childhood. She made the decision to develop her hobby into a profession over 20 years ago and has run a successful photography business since then.
"This is really what I want to be doing for the rest of my life," said Pomeroy, who specializes in portraits. "I really felt like it was my calling."
Pomeroy serves as the only volunteer photographer for Portraits for Patriots in the greater Bay Area, which means she has had participants travel to her studio from all over the state.
"When I find that I have a new client that comes to me through this organization, for me, it's life changing," Pomeroy said. "The people that I've met have been incredible."
Pomeroy explained that the majority of clientele that come from Portraits for Patriots have never experienced a professional photo session prior to meeting with her. For this reason, she said she prioritizes assuring her subjects are comfortable and able to let their guard down.
"I never want anyone to feel rushed. I really take the time with people to get them comfortable in the field," Pomeroy said. "My studio is a judgment-free zone."
Since she began partnering with the nonprofit, she has donated an estimated amount of $7,000 worth of time and photographs.
Karen Denny served 20 years in the U.S. Coast Guard before initiating her transition out of military life. Similarly to Gillespie, Denny discovered Portraits for Patriots via a LinkedIn post shared by one of her connections.
"It's a huge transition and there's so much stuff to wrap your brain around," Denny said about leaving the military. "It's daunting to take even those small steps; it can seem overwhelming."
Denny was another recipient of professional headshot images donated by Pomeroy's studio.
Denny recalled the impact the images had once she had changed her online profile pictures. The thought of undergoing a complete career change after over two decades appeared less challenging once she laid eyes on her portrait.
"I could literally see my professional self growing. I walked out of there a different person," she said. "I still had a long journey to go in this transition process, but that step was huge for me. I wouldn't have been able to do that without Nina's help."
Reynaldo Rios Jr., who served in the U.S. Air Force for over 20 years, retiring with the rank of senior master sergeant, was also a client of Pomeroy's during his transition to the civilian workforce.
He also heard about the organization through LinkedIn, applied and was put in contact with Pomeroy. He said he had been intrigued by the program because it not only offered portraits for service members, but their spouses as well.
"I thought that was very unique because a lot of times we don't necessarily think about the transition to a family," Rios said.
Pomeroy confirmed she would be able to photograph both Rios and his wife during the same session, encouraging them to travel to her studio together.
"She took her time and talked us through the session, coaching us and uplifting our spirits with compliments," Rios said. "It was a really, really fun experience that completely satisfied us as a team."
Rios discussed how having new professional images to display helped him and his wife adapt to their new lives.
"When you have something like that represent you on LinkedIn, you're going to use those professional headshots for years," Rios said. "You walk a little taller with your chest out a little more because you just feel elevated."
Pomeroy plans to move her photography business to a larger studio in the area later this year. She hopes to expand her work and continue providing photography services for the community.
"I live with gratitude every single day and everyone who walks through my door -- I'm grateful for them and being able to share with them I think it's a gift," Pomeroy said. "I really want to capture who they are in the sense of their experiences, the wisdom that they have, and what they bring to the table to new employers."
More information about the nonprofit Portraits for Patriots can be found at www.portraitsforpatriots.org.