Now that this pretty girl in PJs has survived her lung transplant, she has a lot to smile about. Her mom told me that she was never able to go swimming or enjoy many of the activities that healthy kids do, because she was on oxygen her whole life. Now she can.
Meeting this patient was a meaningful experience for me. Our meeting caused me to reflect on what we take for granted, and why we ever feel sorry for ourselves. In these photos, I hope you read inspiration too.
As I continue to process the portraits I made at Childrens Hospital last week, I find myself gazing into the eyes of the brave hearted children and their beautiful mothers. These mothers are exceptional because they have risen to the challenge to inspire calm in their children as they hold fast to enduring hope for better days ahead.
They hold firmly onto their dreams for a bright future for their children, even as they balance private worries they dare not speak. In their eyes, you can read the strength they embody.
The mother, the father, the grandmother, the visiting uncle, the little sister — the intensity of their love is a big part of the cure.
Sometimes when you are four, you don’t want your picture taken. Maybe you are just shy around strangers. Maybe you are tired or not feeling great. What’s the big fuss?
Little Emily is shy, and she might not feel 100%. The last night her Mom brought her to a photographer, she didn’t want any part of it. She refused to smile.
When Emily and I met, I could tell she was shy, so first we let her watch another child have a portrait session. Then, we just talked. Emily had fun and got a few photos taken with no pressure. You know what? Her favorite color is purple, and her favorite movie is Frozen. She can also sing her ABCs, very quietly.
I might have the best job in the world. Every year I spend a day shooting portraits at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh for a special non-profit program that supports pediatric cancer called Flashes of Hope. Yesterday I photographed nine children and their families, for a total of 340 images. These families share their positive spirit with me, and I come home inspired by their strength and courage.
Today I began the lengthy task of processing the photos, which includes converting the images to black and white, the signature style of Flashes of Hope. So, I spent the day looking into the eyes of seven-year-old Joey. He was an animated talker, especially when he described his best friends and his “girlfriend” Kayla.
My photography friend and mentor Marc Soracco took these touching photos of my portrait shoot at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh for Flashes of Hope when he assisted me last month. I thought you might enjoy a peak behind the scenes.
While photographing this mother and daughter at Children’s Hospital last week, I asked Mom if she shaved her head to support her daughter going through chemotherapy.
“I let Mary shave my head,” she replied. “My hair was really, really long, and I let her shave it all off.”
“And now you will grow your hair back together,” I said.
The intimacy between the two was also evident in the playfulness they revealed. I try to capture both the playful moments as well as the sober ones when my subjects are relaxed enough to share both with me.
*Mary is a fictitious name. We protect the privacy of patients by keeping their identities private.
Today I’m getting ready for a full day of shooting portraits at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh for Flashes of Hope. This is a volunteer gig I do once or twice a year to benefit kids who have cancer or another serious illness. I only have about 15 minutes to capture several wonderful and different portraits of each child. The biggest challenge is to get the child to warm up and relax in front of the camera as quickly as possible. Of course, we try to make the shoot a fun experience — a special day to feel like a movie star, or just to be yourself and be loved for who you are. The children may range in age from newborn to college student, but most of my subjects have fallen into the 4 to 12 age range. I’ll bring all the Mommy charm I have inside, all the photography know-how and give it my best.
Here is one portrait from last June. Identities are confidential. Say a prayer that all these children will be blessed with a recovery to full health.