Photographing Terminally Ill Children—The Gift of Pictures

They are the subjects most of us pray we never have to document. Yet, for the parents of terminally ill children pictures are often the only tangible items they have left when their precious gifts are taken away.

In my previous blog I revealed that I would never had the foresight or wherewithal to bring a camera to my child’s hospital room to snap shots of her battle to survive. Yet the last photographs taken of a terminally ill child are often what most parents cling to the most.

Which brings me to the story of professional photographer Lynette Johnson. You might recognize the name. She’s appeared on various news shows and in several national magazines. She is the woman hundreds of parents of sick infants call their “angel.”

For those of you who are not familiar with Johnson’s name she has made headlines for taking it upon herself to capture the short but treasured lives of infants who are victims of life threatening medical conditions.

Johnson’s role as an “angel” started decades ago when her best friend lost her baby. In an effort to help others who were going through the same grief as her pal Johnson quietly began donating her photography services to parents of terminally ill children at a local children’s hospital in Seattle.

At first, she worked with two or three families a year, but with all of the national exposure she garnered requests started pouring in. Since being profiled on NBC’s “Today” show and appearing in PEOPLE magazine Johnson has crisscrossed North America honoring parents’ requests to photograph their dying children. (She has also expanded her work to older kids as well.)

And she doesn’t ask for a single dime in return.

The parents who receive Johnson’s service–many of which have had to watch their children die of spina bifida, brain cancer, and the incurable genetic Tay-Sachs disease–say it is “profound” to have Johnson’s photos. One mom hung the pictures Johnson took of her terminally ill 15-day old son in her kitchen (the room she spends the most time in) because she says she finds it comforting to look up and always see her baby’s precious face looking back at her.

Soon after her story went national and the requests from parents became overwhelming Johnson realized there was no way she could handle the costs associated with donating her services, so she started a foundation. Soulumination is Johnson’s nonprofit organization that offers her services to parents and provides education about respecting grief itself.

In addition, to help grant the wishes of all the parents who contact her, Johnson started enlisting the help of other professional photographers. She says through Soulumination she is hoping to mentor a network of photographers who have expressed an interest in mirroring her work.

If you are interested in donating your photo skills to aid parents in need you can contact Johnson by clicking here.

Related Articles:

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Snapping Frameworthy Shots Of Your Kids

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Michele Cheplic

About Michele Cheplic

Michele Cheplic was born and raised in Hilo, Hawaii, but now lives in Wisconsin. Michele graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a degree in Journalism. She spent the next ten years as a television anchor and reporter at various stations throughout the country (from the CBS affiliate in Honolulu to the NBC affiliate in Green Bay). She has won numerous honors including an Emmy Award and multiple Edward R. Murrow awards honoring outstanding achievements in broadcast journalism. In addition, she has received awards from the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association for her reports on air travel and the Wisconsin Education Association Council for her stories on education. Michele has since left television to concentrate on being a mom and freelance writer.