ALEXANDRIA, VA – Mike Leonard is a busy man. When seen around town, he is usually not without his camera. Photography may not be his full-time job, but it is his passion.
With twenty years of experience, Leonard has been taking pictures in Alexandria for two years. He started his own business, Mike Leonard Photo, a year ago.
Leonard told The Zebra Press that his favorite part about taking pictures in this community is the people. Through photography, he has been given an “opportunity to meet folks from all backgrounds and walks of life and interests, and to develop real human connection as they briefly invite me into their lives to capture them at their best.”
Leonard developed an interest in photography decades ago during visits to this country’s national parks and places in the wild. The majesty and scale of what he saw as a child moved him. To this day, when he travels internationally, he never leaves his camera behind.
Wherever his travels take him – whether his destination is Costa Rica or the Caribbean – he remains devoted to the Alexandria/Arlington area.
When the coronavirus pandemic hit locally, he shifted his focus from his business to the Porch Portraits project. This nationwide effort to capture family togetherness began informally in April, bringing something positive to a time of upheaval. The project soon morphed into a formal fundraiser. During the last two weekends in May, families in Arlington and Alexandria, rather than pay a photographer’s fee, could have their photo taken and donate to a community organization, such as ALIVE!, Casa Chirilagua, or the Animal Welfare League of Arlington (AWLA).
Leonard became involved in the effort because he had volunteered his services with AWLA and lives nearby. During one weekend in Alexandria, he met a family who owns a rescue dog from AWLA and that, he said, is the moment when he realized the importance of his work.
“Recognizing that everyone has been affected differently by this pandemic, I plan to continue to encourage each family to ‘pay it forward’ and determine their own ability to donate, if at all,” Leonard said.
Leonard can be contacted through his Facebook page or Instagram account. Besides helping organizations, he feels he is playing a part in bringing some brief joy to families who may have lost income or jobs as a result of the pandemic. And asking families to make a donation, he says, is about trust.
“I believe we can all emerge stronger, kinder, and more compassionate from this crisis,” Leonard said, “which is something we all need.”
A new Porch Portraits fundraiser is planned for the end of June. Leonard is taking part, and it will support the Alexandria Community Alliance (ACA). The fundraiser is scheduled for June 20, 27, and 28 from 8–10 a.m. and 5–7 p.m. Photography sessions will last approximately five minutes. Ten days after the session, families will receive a minimum of three professional shots.
The ACA’s mission is to help those in need. The all-volunteer group assists in a number of ways: providing food, baby supplies, social support, and much more. By contributing a donation during your Porch Portraits session, you are helping your fellow Alexandrians hit hardest by the pandemic. To learn more about the fundraiser and sign up, click HERE.