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Creating free portraits for courageous families

What's it about?

I have committed my life to gifting portraits to communities that live outside of privilege. My truck is my home as I travel and coordinate family portrait days with a variety of social service agencies, shelters, and faith and community centers. For several years before I left the world of commercial photography, I made time outside work to donate portraits to families dealing with difficult domestic, economic and societal circumstances. Jackdaw is a full time expansion of that work. This is a gift of love, respect and legacy. There is no cost for the families I create portraits for or the agencies that help me coordinate the shoots, nor will I ever profit from the images. The families I photograph retain image ownership and rights to the images I create for them. I will not be making a book or marketing their images in any way. Since this is a gift to the communities I serve, this outreach will only survive with your support. I hope you will become a patron of this work. 

What inspired you to do this?

All my life I have sought a convergence of my passions in a way that would bless others and be a truly meaningful use of my gifts and energy. Significant personal events in 2014 swept away everything I had expected my life would be and revealed a new purpose. The inspiration for Jackdaw arose from that journey of loss, grief and discovery. A deeper empathy took root within me for the people our society doesn't want to see. Now, instead of using my skills and energy for the benefit of the world of advertising, I use them to bless families and create something of truly enduring value- a photographic legacy they would never expect to have. Many of the people I gift have never had portraits of any kind. This is especially true for families who are homeless, escaping abusive situations, dealing with socioeconomic oppression, or are struggling with cycles of poverty or addiction. This gift is intended to affirm their worth and dignity despite whatever battles they are waging. They are the ones I honor and for whom this gift is intended. I am continually moved and inspired by the souls I meet while doing this work.

Richard Villacres

I've been a professional commercial photographer for over 33 years. I've done just about every kind of photography there is over the course of my career thus far. But, through it all, creating portraits has always been the most meaningful aspect of my work. Having found myself unexpectedly free to make a massive course change a few years ago, I quit the world of advertising and made it my purpose and creative focus to provide portraits for families and individuals who can not afford them. 


Why aren't there any family portraits displayed on your site? 

The majority of the families I photograph desire to remain anonymous. This is not a campaign for social change or a cause beyond blessing people with portraits of their families and children. None of the people I photograph have to give me any identification or documentation. I keep no records of them beyond archiving their shots. No names are written down, only their shoot day portrait number so I can deliver their final prints and digital images. I am sure there will ultimately be families that would like for their portraits to be shared and I will do so on my blog and social media. I feel it is important  that when potential clients land on this website for the first time, they don't see it populated with family portraits which could make them nervous about their images being posted on the web or used to promote this outreach. I have been part of the commercial marketing machine my entire career and that's the last thing I want this gift to be perceived as. Jackdaw is a completely open offering to bless. One that gives to these individuals and families without condition. And since I am serving communities that often live on the margins of society, and even immigration law in some cases, I take preserving their confidentiality very seriously. The only client portraits I will ever share will be from families that expressly want to share their experience on my social media. I will however share patron portraits and all kinds of photos of the journey including behind the scenes images to give a feel for the kind of environments I am working in. I will extensively share my experience in words and images along the way, but never at the expense of my clients. For lots of history and updates, check out the links to all my social media at the bottom of this site. 

What inspired this outreach?  

My life dramatically changed in 2014. The grief and loss of the experience lasted years and compelled me to dig deeply into who I truly am and why I'm here. Those years of healing and personal work transformed my values and inspired me to devote my life to this work. That year I participated in my first Burning Man while still in deep grief. I spent the majority of my time in the Temple, which is the spiritual center of the burn. The acceptance and vulnerability I experienced there was unparalleled. It was there that I began fully accepting the temporal nature of life and how precious the time and energy of a life is. Another element of the burn that greatly inspired me is the gift economy. There is no commerce or bartering on the playa. We all bring what we need to survive 8 days in the desert, as well as what we wish to bless others with. The culture of fearless authenticity and giving of one's resources and talents without expectation of compensation has been greatly inspiring to me. 

Shortly upon returning from my second burn in 2015, I had a vivid dream. In it, I was editing family portraits in the back of an old boxy truck. The space had small windows all around which flooded the interior with natural light. Where I was parked and working felt like a remote Mexican village. I didn't know what to make of the dream until later that day when a fellow truck enthusiast shared a craigslist ad on his facebook feed of a truck that bore a striking resemblance to the one in my dream. It was a rare 1954 Dodge M152 which had been a radio truck in the Canadian Armed Forces. I had never seen that particular truck before and I knew it's match to the one in my dream could not be coincidental. There were only four pictures, but the more I looked at them, the more I knew it was for me. I did not have the means to buy it, but I didn't let that stop me from contacting the seller. I shared my dream and idea with the seller in an email and he got back to me a week later. Not only was he open to my financially ridiculous proposal to make payments for a year, but he proposed a lower price if I could pay it off in six months. We drafted a purchase contract and on the first day of October I sent him a $1000 deposit, (all of my savings), without even seeing the rig in person. Totally stupid, crazy faith! It had sat in a barn for over 30 years and wasn't even running. I sold the truck I had, my custom motorcycle I had just finished building, and everything of value that I owned that wasn't legacy for my children. I had it paid off in four months instead of six. By the last week of May, 2016 it was finally in my driveway after being hauled across continent from Ontario, Canada to Ellensburg, Washington. Thus began over two years of extensive restoration work in my driveway. 

Why a vintage truck and how will you take care of it?  

The old Dodge is a big part of the magic. I will be rolling into the poorest, and sometimes dangerous, parts of towns and cities. The truck's obsolescence will allow me to approach these communities without an air of wealth or privilege. A modern overlanding vehicle would put me at great disadvantage when making that critical first impression. Even when people don't have a clue what they're looking at, they still appreciate the age and unique character of the truck. It gets positive attention everywhere I go. Smiles and waves abound, especially with kids and elders. Wherever I go the greetings and questions fly, opening doors for the work I'm doing.

I have retrofitted the truck with a modern V8 drivetrain as well as modifying and restoring many of her original systems.  I also converted the former radio room section into my living quarters. I did all this work myself and have gained considerable experience with the function and maintenance of every system in the rig. It's an extremely simple machine that was built with field maintenance in mind. Everything can be serviced or repaired with the tools I carry on board. Spare parts are abundant since the Dodge M Series military trucks shared components with the civilian Dodge Power Wagons which were produced in great number in the US and Canada from 1951-68. The drivetrain components were designed for severe conditions and are extremely robust. The Chevy drivetrain is brand new and modern. I can get parts for it anywhere in North, Central, and South America. The truck had just over 14,000 miles on it when I got it and is now approaching 28,000 miles. It is in exceptional mechanical condition thanks to being stored indoors for so many decades. With proper maintenance she will last me the rest of my days.

How will you pull this off financially?  

I am debt free and the truck is my home. Living out of the rig is a key part of making this outreach financially possible. This is not a sabbatical or photo adventure for personal profit. I resigned my position as Central Washington University's photographer on July 31, 2018 and devoted my life to this purpose. I am currently living on my retirement savings until I reach a point in Patron support that is self-sustaining.

Living out of the truck allows me to survive on a very lean budget. I am at home with minimalist living. I've done this before when starting my career and I know the ropes. Financing of the mission will be accomplished by crowd funding via monthly patronage through Patreon as well as one-time PayPal donations, (link to Patreon above or PayPal below). My ultimate goal for financial support is 400 people pledging $10 a month. This will provide enough funding after fees and taxes, (25%), to cover printing, fuel, food and maintenance expenses for the outreach. My ability to gift communities will be pretty much boundless at that point. Until then, my range will be a bit limited, so I will work with what I have and serve families wherever I am as I build full financial support. The reward I offer my patrons is portraits for them and their families when in their cities. I have personally paid for the truck's acquisition, restoration, modification and initial mission equipment.

How can I help?  

Patronage-  Any amount of financial help is appreciated and makes this gift to families possible! I live as lean as I can in order to keep the wheels turning. The best way to financially support Jackdaw is by becoming a monthly patron via Patreon using the black patronage button above, (directly below my bio in the first section of this site). You can pledge any monthly amount you like. It's set up for $10 a month, but you can customize your patronage and give as little as a dollar. You can also make a one time donation to this work using the PayPal button below. Your financial assistance is greatly appreciated regardless of the amount. It all adds up and helps!

Spiritual-  I am an advocate of religious coexistence. I respect and honor all paths. Please hold me up in your thoughts and devotions whatever your beliefs may be.

Intel-  Follow my blog, twitter, Instagram, and Facebook feeds. When you see me headed your way, please let me know so that we can connect. Local contacts and advice will be greatly appreciated anywhere I land.

Spread the word-  Please share what I'm doing with your friends and family on social media.

Seriously? You're going to do this with the rest of your life?  

I have always been nomadic at heart and I find myself in the unique position to actually do this. I have no desire for a classic retirement. It is my heart's desire to passionately run with this to the end of my days. I can think of no better way to spend the balance of my mortal energy. 

Hellen Keller is one of my great inspirations. She wrote, 'Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is a daring adventure or nothing at all.' I agree with her and will finish out this life loving, growing, and giving with all my strength and energy. 

Your support is critical and any amount helps! I can't do it without you.

Monthly patronage is ideal, (use the black 'Click here to become a Patron!' button directly below my bio), but if that's not affordable for you, please consider a one-time gift in any amount you would like. You can also support what I'm doing without spending a dime by simply sharing this website on your social media.  Thank you!

Pay with PayPal or a debit/credit card


I have a rolling home that can go ANYWHERE! Let me know where I'm needed.


Pacific Northwest, USA

(509) 607-3827