“Say Cheese!” Anyone who has ever been in front of a camera before is familiar with this phrase. It’s your cue to give a big toothy grin–after all, photography is all about smiling faces and happy moments. Except for when it’s not.
Today I photographed a family who were far from smiling. Their daughter was born without a stomach and was not expected to survive delivery. 20 hours later and there she was, heart still beating, though they knew it that wasn’t going to last. When their nurse came to tell me they wanted to have photos taken, she made sure to stress that I had to come as soon as possible because there wasn’t going to be a later.
I wasn’t sure what to expect when I walked into the room. I’ve photographed over 100 newborns, including premies and babies in the NICU, but I’d never been faced with a 3 lb little girl who wouldn’t get to go home. Her parents were amazing. I expected the room to feel incredibly depressing, but they weren’t crying (though I’m sure there were tears before and more to come). They said they didn’t think they’d even get this much time with her and they were taking every second they could.
And that’s when the true value of what I’m doing really hit me. These images are some of the only memories they will have of their time with their daughter; some of the only things to share with her twin brother. I feel incredibly honored to have been able to give something to them, and know this experience will stay with me.