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Hidden Heroes
Local photographer brings art to the creation of families
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Colleen Walsh
LARGO - Local photographer Colleen Marie Walsh puts her heart and talents into one heartwarming event.

She captures the innocence and beauty of foster children that are in need of loving parents for the Second Annual Heart Gallery, sponsored by the Children’s Home in Tampa.

Through the use of creative poses and a natural gift that brings out each child’s uniqueness, Walsh not only creates breathtaking portraits, but also contributes to the creation of new families.

Portraits of foster children taken by volunteer photographers are displayed at this special event and viewed by prospective adoptive parents. Walsh, a member of the Tampa Association of Professional Photographers, first learned about the Heart Gallery event at a meeting last year.

“When they came and spoke to us that night, I knew this was the project I was waiting for,” said Walsh. “I was overcome with emotion and it was a vehicle specifically designed for photography.”

For last year’s Heart Gallery event, Walsh photographed several children including a sibling group of four. Walsh said that her main goal was to capture the children in such a way that would bring out each unique personality and become an appealing photo for adults to view; one that would touch their hearts and make them unable to leave without that child.

“I consider my style to be close and personal,” she said. “I like to keep it simple, I focus on my subject.”

Originally from Tennessee, Walsh first realized she had a knack for photography after reviewing her photos taken on a high school senior trip. After studying abroad and photographing landscapes in Europe, Walsh moved to Atlanta, Ga., where she spent several years running a photography business with another partner, while attending SouthEastern Center for the Arts. She also had another full-time job to make ends meet.

It was during this time that Walsh gained exposure to other photographers and really learned her craft.

It wasn’t until Walsh relocated to Florida in 2001, that she began taking photographs of her infant nephew, her first shots of children. Never really considering children’s photography before, Walsh realized she had a natural way of comforting them, allowing her to capture their innocence on film.

“The great thing about photography is that it is subjective. It’s such a personal thing,” she said.

Walsh’s ability to connect with children makes the Heart Gallery event a natural project for her to pursue. Not only did all of the siblings Walsh photographed for last year’s Heart Gallery event become adopted, but also they were all adopted into the same family.

“I like to think that it’s not merely my image that touched the adoptive family, but that it was through me the real personalities of the children came through larger than life - off of the wall and into their hearts,” Walsh said.

Along with the reward of knowing that the children she photographed were some of the first to be adopted, she also took home with her an Honorable Mention for her work.

At this year’s event on Feb. 12, Walsh contributed to the planning committee and promoted media coverage in addition to her photography.

“There is a magic that happens when you take the focus off of yourself to help others,” she said. “In helping others you are also helping yourself in many ways you may not realize. If even one child finds a home, it will have been worth it.”

The Heart Gallery event will continue to exhibit in various locations throughout Florida.

Walsh also has donated free photo sessions for the Jewish Community School and the American Heart Association. She has hosted several brown bag sessions for friends and work associates, and she founded a photo club where she teaches fellow co-workers basic photography and exhibits their work.

Walsh photographs families, corporate events, children, fashion, landscapes and products, as well as advertising and promotional work. She is a contributing photographer for The Parent Guide Magazine where she provides cover images and closing thoughts images, and she recently photographed all the promotional images and headshots for the local Tampa Bay radio station Clear Channel Mix 100.7 WMTX.

Walsh has established her own company in Largo, Colleen Walsh Photography Inc. Call Walsh at 452-6230 or visit
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