secret project revealed | orange county children's photographer

7.31.2010

Most people don't know I volunteer my time and services to Children's Hospital Orange County (CHOC) on a monthly basis. This work is very special to me along with the families and children I meet and become to know, which is why I feel publishing my work wrecks the mission of my project, along with putting on display a very private fight. But I also feel my images need an audience (especially emotional work), which only makes the decision to publish these images a struggle. With great thought, I have decided to, on a rarely basis, publish certain groups of images... ONLY with permission of the families, of course.

My day at CHOC: I arrive on the 3rd Friday of every month, swipe my volunteer badge, sign in and take the stairs to the 3rd floor. Located on the every floor is a playroom which has special hours and events to raise the spirits of the patients. Maybe I have gotten too comfortable, but CHOC doesn't feel like a hospital; to me it feels like a college dorm, a place for fun and play. The 3rd floor is where I spend most of my time, aka the Oncology Floor. I check in with one of the many, hard working, Child Life Services Specialists, who has already done diligent work of finding subjects willing to be photographed. Usually I photograph about 5 subjects, so I take my list and make my plan of attack, choosing an "easy" subject to help me get in the creative groove. Usually this is a girl older than 3, who is not inside the OICU... girls are easier to photograph than boys, but 2 year olds are always difficult.

The families are always expecting me and very excited for my visit, but there is always a little nervousness. Talking to the child and family for a few minutes to get to know them helps ease the tension of a stranger's presence, and you'd be surprised how far a big smile will go. I try to incorporate the families into the portraits, but I almost always get denied at first. I start photographing the child, asking them to make funny faces for me... it's surprising to me that some children are very modest and have a hard time making faces for the camera. After I gain a bit of trust I move to more serious "traditional" images with my main subject. These are the images which we remember the most, and I try to put 4 quality portraits in the bag before I move on to the family.

Hands hold a special healing power which I guess intrigues me, so I ask the family and subject to hold hands. Families and parents who don't want to be photographed always agree to this portrait, and I use the grouping to quickly transition into face shots with the family, hoping to catch the unwilling family/parent off guard, and agreeing to traditional portraits when they originally didn't want to. Most of the time this clever move works and I gain cooperation. I hate to 'trick' people into their portrait being taken, but this could be a very critical time for these children, and my portraits hold potential to be their last together... I'm always trying, and if a child does pass away I'm sure they will look back and cherish the moments I have captured.

I shoot all my CHOC projects in a high key black and white film style, a style I don't use much in my business so I really enjoy the unique challenge. The goal is to obtain 11 solid horizontal portraits which will then be placed into a 4x6 paper album which I hand produce and give to the families, free of charge. When editing and shooting I'm looking for a good closing image of my subject, a solid cover portrait, and complimentary portraits which would pair nicely next to each other. I enjoy every moment of the process.

This young lady had a really nice and fun personality, which yielded many amazing portraits. I asked the family if they wouldn't mind me posting their images on my blog, and they graciously allowed me to share my personal project with you. Thank you.








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