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Free portrait sessions for struggling families Saturday
Bethany Carlson will be holding free photo sessions for families struggling financially on Saturday, Nov. 19. The event which will be held at Caswell State Memorial Park from 2 to 5 p.m. is open to all, and pre-registration is greatly encouraged. People wishing to partake can e-mail Carlson at to setup their designated time. - photo by Photo Contributed

Bethany Carlson has seen up close what it’s like for families to face financial difficulties during the holiday season.

For the past two Christmases her father has joined the thousands of other unemployed area residents searching for a job after being laid off due to a downtrodden economy.

And when her husband – who works at Crossroads Grace Community Church in Manteca – told her about the amount of unemployed families, she realized she had to come with a way to help.

So she’s putting her skills as a professional portrait photographer to good use and setting up an event this Saturday, Nov. 19, to provide local families that are facing financial difficulties and unemployment during the holidays by offering free sitting sessions.

“I was thinking of ways that I could help, and this all kind of came together,” Carlson said. “I wanted to do something for the unemployed families that are really struggling, and rather than doing something like adopting a family and buying a gift, I thought that this might work out better.

“Pictures mean so much to people, and hopefully this can help just a little bit.”

Carlson learned how to capture images of people while spending time overseas in South Korea. Working as an English teacher, she immersed herself in the culture and began blogging about her experiences. Photos soon followed, and she quickly realized that she could use her skill with a camera to earn extra money shooting portraits.

A passion for photography soon developed, and when she returned home to be with her fiancé Tim, Carlson setup a website that outlined her experience and some of her work and took the first steps toward being self-employed as an artist in the Central Valley.

Being able to take her love for the lens and translate that into joy for somebody who has faced hardship, she said, is an amazing feeling.

“I know that it’s only a temporary, small blessing, but I’m happy that I’m able to take something that God has given me and help give kids and parents a memory and a little bit of hope,” Carlson said. “It’s one thing to be searching for a job or a place to live in the summer. It’s another thing during Christmas when you have kids.

“I’m thankful I have a way that I can bring something – even if it’s a super small, sliver of one day – to the table.”

The sessions are set to take place at Caswell State Park from 2 to 5 p.m., and all families interested can pre-register by emailing

Photos will be available in an online album, and a disc containing the photos will be available for purchase for a small fee.

To get to Caswell State Park from Manteca, take Highway 99 to Austin Road and go south. The road ends at the park entrance, and the registration tent will be located at the back parking lot straight through the main gate.