A generous photographer braved negative temperatures to take these free holiday portraits.

A severe oil price crash in Alberta, Canada, has left much of the area devastated — and at the worst possible time too.

The Calgary skyline. David Boily/AFP/Getty Images

One of Canada's largest oil and gas hubs, Alberta, and specifically the city of Calgary, has been hit hard by major price drops this year. Tens of thousands of workers have been laid off as a result; upwards of 30,000 by some estimates.


That's not the kind of news anyone wants to hear during the holiday season.

Photographer Ben Logan, a longtime resident of the area, wanted to find a way to give back to the city he loves.

"I've always enjoyed doing what I can for others," he says. "But volunteering at certain places didn't seem like it was enough right now."

So, with the help of his girlfriend, Logan had an idea: free holiday photos for families who might otherwise not be able to afford them.

"We thought we'd pick a spot somewhere, set up the camera, put up a sign," Logan says. "Just see who would come by and pick their day up a bit with a free photo."

He says there's something lovably cheesy and timeless about holiday photos and that even a relatively simple shoot with a professional photographer is more than most people can afford these days.

Initially, Logan prepared for only a handful of families to show. But news of the event quickly spread on social media and local news. Soon, he was prepping for over 1,000 people to show up.

Logan set up shop at Olympic Plaza in downtown Calgary on an icy December Saturday, and he waited.

The city was blasted with frigid temperatures that day, as low as -22 degrees Fahrenheit. The weather, needless to say, put a serious damper on attendance. But it wasn't long before the first families started showing up — below freezing temperates be damned.

The first couple to arrive was bundled head to toe in winter gear. When they stripped down, they showed off sharp dress clothes for a (very) quick photo.

All photos by Ben Logan, used with permission

Others soon followed. Families with giggling kids. Couples in love.

People from all walks of life.

Logan says one man, in particular, stood out in his memory.

The man didn't hear about the photo shoot in advance, he just happened to be passing through. He's currently homeless and had traveled nearly 1,000 miles from Vancouver to see his dying mother.

"While he was walking around, he saw us and was able to capture a Christmas photo for her before she left us," Logan says. "That was pretty touching."

Though only a handful of families were able to brave the breathtakingly low temperatures, the event was a massive success.

Logan says when news began to spread about the photo shoot, a handful of local businesses decided to chip in: They donated a significant sum of money specifically for Logan to give to the Calgary Food Bank in the name of his project.

Logan will be out there at Olympic Plaza again, before Christmas, and he hopes for warmer weather this time. And either way, he plans to do the whole thing again next year. And every year after that.

"That was the dream behind it all," he says. "I would really, really love to do that."

Hopefully, things will have turned around for the citizens of Calgary by this time next year. But if they don't, Logan says he's ready and eager to spread holiday cheer to people when they need it the most.

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If the past year has taught us nothing else, it's that sending love out into the world through selfless acts of kindness can have a positive ripple effect on people and communities. People all over the United States seemed to have gotten the message — 71% of those surveyed by the World Giving Index helped a stranger in need in 2020. A nonprofit survey found 90% helped others by running errands, calling, texting and sending care packages. Many people needed a boost last year in one way or another and obliging good neighbors heeded the call over and over again — and continue to make a positive impact through their actions in this new year.

Welcometoterranova and P&G Good Everyday wanted to help keep kindness going strong, so they partnered up to create the Lead with Love Fund. The fund awards do-gooders in communities around the country with grants to help them continue on with their unique missions. Hundreds of nominations came pouring in and five winners were selected based on three criteria: the impact of action, uniqueness, and "Welcometoterranova-ness" of their story.

Here's a look at the five winners:

Edith Ornelas, co-creator of Mariposas Collective in Memphis, Tenn.

Edith Ornelas has a deep-rooted connection to the asylum-seeking immigrant families she brings food and supplies to families in Memphis, Tenn. She was born in Jalisco, Mexico, and immigrated to the United States when she was 7 years old with her parents and sister. Edith grew up in Chicago, then moved to Memphis in 2016, where she quickly realized how few community programs existed for immigrants. Two years later, she helped create Mariposas Collective, which initially aimed to help families who had just been released from detention centers and were seeking asylum. The collective started out small but has since grown to approximately 400 volunteers.