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PPA Photographer Story: Georgia Photographer Horace Holmes Shows How to Be More Involved - PPA Today

PPA Photographer Story: Georgia Photographer Horace Holmes Shows How to Be More Involved

Horace reading to 3rd Grade class at King Danforth Elementary School 33.jpg
Fifty years ago Horace Holmes was a Boston-area teen on welfare living in an attic. He couldn't read or write, but he understood things.

A social worker visited his family one day and told him about a program called Upward Bound. The program provides fundamental support to high school students from low income families in their preparation for college entrance. 

The social worker told Horace he could go to college and be there all day. Cool, he thought. The program offered several classes in the arts. Horace was drawn to photography because he was very visual, but there was one problem: he had never used a camera in his life.

He took his first picture with a Yashica Mat 124. They told him, "look down, push this and then turn this. Go out and take a picture of something creative." Horace chose a fire hydrant and went back to the lab for his transformative moment.  

"Seeing the image develop I said 'WOW!' and that was it," he said. "Little did I know where photography would take me."


Despite his illiteracy, Horace became quite a talent behind the camera. His photographic journey included joining PPA in 1984 and earning several new credentials after his name. Horace Holmes, Cr.Photog., CPP, ABI, API, also had a stint as lead photographer for Eastman Kodak Olympus in Atlanta. Photography brought him to the White House three times. 

At age 55, Horace went back to school and learned to read and write. He let them know--you can change if you want to. 
Photography opened so many doors for Horace; he always saw it as a way to give back, too.

"As photographers, we have a gift to create things through the lens of a camera," he said. "I've always believed this gift isn't just for me and I take that approach within my community."

Horace has been a member of his local Macon, Georgia, Rotary club for 15 years. The club recently adopted the elementary school and asked, "How can we make a difference?" The Principal cited a lack of writing skills and wanted all 290 students to have a journal. The club bought 350 notebooks and gave one to every student. 

The principal then wanted her students to experience photography, and use it as a tool to tie back to literature. Realizing camera equipment was harder to acquire than notebooks, they decided to target the 5th grade. 

The program gives each of the school's 50 fifth grade students a digital camera, so they can use the cameras to document how they see their life. They then choose an image that they've taken to display in the main entry of their school, along with a piece of writing that tells their story.  

Horace put in a grant through the Rotary Foundation and received funds for 17 of the 50 cameras they needed. Horace then reached out to PPA Charities for help. PPA Charities reached out to Canon and acquired 33 refurbished cameras to complete the 50. 
The students will start photographing when they return from Christmas break. In late February 2015, they will choose their favorite image to tell their story. Horace envisions the students unveiling their work at the new, $33-million Harriet Tubman Museum opening in April.

"I see them standing there in their Sunday best telling their stories to dignitaries, city officials, their families and fellow students," said Horace.  

"It's exciting to do something right here in Macon, that's rewarding for me," he continued. "Every photographer, if we truly look within ourselves, we all have the ability to do that."

Horace has help for printing the images lined up. Next, he needs to acquire memory cards for the cameras. He needs frames for the images and accompanying stories. He's going to rally photographers in the area to assist with the project.

When asked about his motivation behind the project, Horace said, "This project isn't just touching these 50 kids. It's touching 50 families and they'll impact more. And you know what? I'd like to read their stories 50 years from now."

"The cameras will be part of the school used by 5th graders for years to come. They're going to learn about literature, art and express themselves in ways they never have before. Photography opens those kinds of doors." 

He paused, and then added, "I know of a kid, a camera was able to change his life..."
Horace Holmes owns and operates in Macon, Georgia. You can assist with the project in many ways. If interested in finding out more, connect with Horace directly at

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This page contains a single entry by Professional Photographers of America (PPA) published on January 6, 2015 4:19 PM.

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