UMN student raises thousands of dollars for charity by capturing “Portraits for a Purpose”

Hossam Halaweish’s photography business means more than just pictures.

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Audrey Rauth

Portraits for a Purpose founder Hossam Halaweish takes a photo of Connor Corsini on Friday, Sept. 25 in Minneapolis. “At the time COVID was starting, I knew a lot of people were struggling a lot harder than I was,” Halaweish explains. He decided to start Portraits for a Purpose, a photography business that donates its proceeds to various nonprofits.

Emalyn Muzzy, Arts and Entertainment Reporter

When third-year biology major Hossam Halaweish started Portraits for a Purpose last spring, he expected it to be a fun summer project and hoped to raise $100 for charity.

Four months later, the project shows no signs of stopping, and, as of Sept. 28, has raised over $2,200.

Halaweish spent the summer in his hometown of Brookings, South Dakota. In May, he was photographing his friends for fun and realized he had the skills to start his own photography business.

Halaweish said he was financially stable and felt that the money could be spent better somewhere else.

“At the time, I wasn’t paying for rent. I was living with my dad. I wasn’t paying for groceries, I wasn’t paying bills,” Halaweish said. “As much as $50 would be amazing, I knew that it wouldn’t change my life. But I knew that even $1 could change someone else’s.”

After doing his research, Halaweish decided to donate his money to Feed the Children, a nonprofit that distributes food to kids in need.

“I wanted to donate to Feed the Children specifically because they have an amazing outreach program,” he said.

In order to get word out to others, Halaweish made an Instagram and a website and started advertising his company through social media and word-of-mouth.

He started off small, photographing his friends and their families, but after getting media exposure in Brookings, more people started reaching out to him.

Kimberly Miller, a resident of Brookings, said she read about him in the local newspaper and hired him to take pictures of her and her family.

She loved that she was able to help out an amatuer photographer who was taking pictures for a cause.

“I think that makes it a fun and low pressure experience,” Miller said.

While Halaweish has accomplished a lot in the past couple of months, he says he couldn’t have done it alone.

After having the idea to start his own business, Halaweish reached out to his sister-in-law Nama Khalil, who has a background in professional photography, for help.

Khalil said she talked to Halaweish about pricing, helped him edit photos and talked through his goals for Portraits for a Purpose.

Recent University of Minnesota graduate and friend of Halaweish Omar Shaarawi also helped kickstart Portraits for a Purpose by creating and paying for the website.

“One of the things he kind of struggled with was having a place to showcase his pictures,” Shaarawi said.

When Halaweish reached out to Shaarawi to design a website, Shaarawi said, “It was a no brainer to me that I would help him out.”

Halaweish said he’s enjoyed developing this project and that he’s felt incredibly lucky to have a community that supports him.

“As much as I like to think this is such a great idea, I think I just got lucky,” he said. “At the end of the day, I’m really trying to do the best with what I have.”