Intro by Skip Cohen
This is recruitment month at Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep and they're constantly searching for more photographers. Here's your chance to give back to your community and have a significant opportunity to help a family heal, all while using your skills to help grieving couples capture the love they have for their children.
Just click on the banner above to learn more about how you can help.
In the mean time, we've got another poignant guest post from NILMDTS Affiliate Photographer, Lizzy Yates. Check out Lizzy's site to see more of her work.
I can honestly say, I've never had a tougher time picking which images to use with a blog post. The comments with the images I chose were written by the mother, not Lizzy. I teared up as I read what she wrote and while I felt her sadness and the emotion Lizzy talks about in her post, I also felt incredible pride to be part of the photographic industry and especially NILMDTS.
How did you start doing that? This is one of the most common questions I am asked when I tell people about the work I do with Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep. Many assume I have lost a child. Really what brought me to NILMDTS was a matter of simple timing and chance.
In the back of the hall at a workshop six years ago was a NILMDTS representative, who I spoke with. As soon as he began telling us about NILMDTS, I knew that there was no way I could ever be a volunteer. I am not known for my thick skin. I am fairly quick to cry. I wear my feelings on my sleeve. I could not see in myself the ability to be in the presence of such sadness, at working with families who had lost or were about to lose a child.
However, my friend really wanted to attend a NIMDTS training program and I agreed to go along. As I sat in the room I felt more and more drawn to what they were about. I was preparing to move to Arkansas and I looked and saw there were only a couple of photographers active with NILMDTS in Little Rock. I wanted to find out more and see if it was something I could do.
I remember my first session clearly. I was nervous. It was hard, it was sad, I cried…but I did it. I was anxious when I got back to my desk to see the images, to see if I had captured images that would help this family honor and remember their little boy. There they were on my screen, beautiful images of a baby boy who I had watched as his parents cradled and grieved.
Turn the clock forward six years and I've captured images for 150 families. Through my time in some of those hospital rooms I have formed connections with some amazing people, some of whom I am now lucky enough to call friends.
Every session is different. Every situation, family and baby are different. This Saturday marked one year since I was allowed to be a part of the short lives of two remarkable boys, Anders and Brodie, the conjoined twins of Jessica and Scott Chatalain. In celebration of their birthday I asked their mom and dad to share their story not just of the experience with NILMDTS but of their boys, their loss and love...you can read their full story here:
I met Jessica the way I meet many of the moms who need our services, through a short, sad email. She was carrying two very special boys. They would not live long after they were born and she wanted to know more about Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep.
Throughout her pregnancy we would text and email, check in. On March 21st, 2014 we would met in person. When I arrived their room was full of family, fear, sadness and anticipation. Jessica was in bed and she was rubbing her belly as she sat, waiting.
I got to be in the operating room as the boys came into the world and was lucky enough to spend a few hours with this family. They were washed and wrapped, loved, kissed, held and rocked. They passed from person to person who swayed from side to side as they spoke to them and loved on them. They were held by their three big brothers.
Since that day I have gotten to see Jessica share her boys through the images I took. I have seen them on Facebook, and in the frames in their home. I've heard her talk about them and remember them with her friends and family.
I know now why I am able to do this. Jessica never got to see her boys with their eyes open. But she has the picture I took. That moment when Brodie saw the world.
The work of Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep is hard, and it is sad. I capture the ‘firsts’, the ‘lasts’ and the ‘onlys.’ NILMDTS is in need of photographers who are willing to give this gift to families in their communities.
"I have cried but I have also smiled. We are not asked to capture images of death. The images we capture are of strength and love and family. I have been witness to stunning loss and staggering strength…and I am grateful."
Intro by Skip Cohen
I've said this before and here it comes again, I couldn't be more proud to be an Ambassador for Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep. This post, by Cyd Lapour, is one of the reasons. She's a NILMDTS affiliate photographer from Baton Rouge, LA. The original post ran on Cyd's blog, but I wanted to share it here as well. To find out more about Cyd, her site, Bayou Rose Photography is just a click away.
What I love most is Cyd's ability to share her feelings about getting involved with NILMDTS in the first place. Over and over again I've heard so many stories from NILMDTS artists who went into the program filled with cautious anxiety. Over and over again they talk about the experience of their first session and how it was life-changing and helped them grow as people, artists and parents themselves.
Cyd's quote is one of the most poignant I've read yet about the experience...
"I've never heard a thank you that left me so sad, and yet so proud. I walked out knowing that the images I had taken weren't just pictures - they were someone's memories. They mattered."
It's recruitment time at NILMDTS and they need all the volunteers they can get. This is an amazing group of people providing a source of healing for so many parents in need. Just click the banner above to find out more information.
by Cyd Lapour
I did something tonight - something terrifying, and humbling, and changing for me.
I'd made the decision to volunteer for an organization called Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep (NILMDTS) a while back. Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep is a charitable organization dedicated to providing photographs of infants born to parents who have had to say goodbye to them too soon. Before committing, I thought long and hard about the decision - I needed to be absolutely sure I could handle it before I volunteered. As the organization is woefully short on volunteers--especially locally--I didn't want to sign up to fill a need that needed filling, only to later bail because I couldn't hack it.
I'll be honest and say I still wasn't one hundred percent sure how I'd handle it when I signed on the dotted line. At the end of it, though, my heart hurt more at the thought of grieving parents wanting photos of their baby but unable to find anyone to take them, than at the thought of me actually showing up to take those photos. So I signed, and prayed that I'd figure all of the important stuff out when the time came.
The call today came last-minute. It was me or nothing - no one else was reachable or available, the nurse said. There was to be no hand-holding, no training wheels, no guidance other than the (thankfully thorough) resources on NILMDTS's website. It was time to figure all the important stuff out, on my own, and on a tight time schedule.
I won't say it wasn't hard. It was hard. From the minute I walked through the door, though, hard took a back seat. My hard was suddenly small, and insignificant, and fleeting.
Hard is watching your baby be baptized, but hearing no outraged cry at the feel of cold water. Hard is dressing your infant in an outfit you know they will never grow out of, and preparing to go home from the hospital with an empty car seat. Hard is screwing up the courage to ask for a stranger to take photos of your baby, when you know those images will be the only things you have to help you remember your child's face.
Yes, it was hard. But not a forever Hard, like the one Mom and Dad were facing. And not a hard that mattered a tiny bit against the heart-breaking sincere gratitude they expressed as I was packing up to go. I've never heard a thank you that left me so sad, and yet so proud. I walked out knowing that the images I had taken weren't just pictures - they were someone's memories. They mattered.
When I got home, I paused on my way to backup the images to hold each of my children in my arms for just long enough to have them sighing in exasperation and rolling their eyes in annoyance. I didn't care, though. I squeezed them just a little bit tighter anyway.
Duties completed, I grabbed a fresh memory card, popped it into my camera, and headed back out of my office toward those loud, wiggly, messy little boys that looked just a little more precious to me now. I wanted--needed--to capture them in all their joy and complexity, while letting them cheat bedtime for just a little while longer.
I love my happy, healthy little gremlins. Even if they do fight like puppies, and take cheap shots at each other, and give one another the side eye, and cheat shamelessly at cooperative kids games.
They're happy, and they're healthy, and they're here with me.
Note: While the images documented by Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep Photographers are usually kept private, baby Kason’s mom was generous enough to allow the use of his images here in the hopes that his story would encourage other photographers to share their talents and help other families in need.
If you're a photographer and you think you can do it--do it. If you want to do it, but are scared that you can't--do it.
Hard things are worth-it things.
Last year I shared one of Randy Baughn's "wow" images as a Spotlight Post. A "wow" image is any image that's so good you could get hired by showing just the one shot. Well, Randy posted one yesterday on Facebook and I wanted to share it with you.
The sign at the bottom of the scene-setter image on the left says it all,
"As soon as I saw you I knew an adventure was about to begin!"
There are a couple of fun components to the back-story on this shoot:
First, the couple's reception is in an airplane hanger this October. So, wanting a shot themed with flying makes total sense. Second, the plane itself belongs to a friend of Randy's and was part of a well known cross country flight a few years back. Flying is a passion of Randy's and he was able to get access to the plane for this shot. Third, 95% of the image is right out of the camera using a couple of smoke machines and Randy's understanding of lighting, composition and exposure. Somebody told him they thought it had too strong a vignette, which I think is absurd - it's meant to look like a period piece.
The first image below is the one I love the most, but Randy sent me a couple more from the shoot I wanted to include.
I love sharing images like this with you, because down the line somebody is going to ask you to do a themed portrait session, tying in some activity or event they're passionate about. It's a simple question, Randy had the skill set to get them what they wanted...will you?
Images copyright Randy Baughn. All rights reserved.
To contact Randy and see more of his work visit his Facebook page.
Intro by Skip Cohen
Every day there are artists pushing the edge of the envelope and doing something totally different.
Meet Drew Noel, a photographer and artist, who's created a different way to frame an image. Obviously, everyone's presentation style is unique and we all have different tastes, but for me, I loved the texture of the frame and Drew's personal philosophy about giving an image more artistic expression.
I also love the idea of professional photographers creating other products to enhance technique, presentation and work flow. I love the entrepreneurial spirit involved in coming up with unique products. Drew's approach hits especially close to home with another way to show printed work.
It's obviously not for every client, but it is unique and worth checking out. You'll find Drew at Iron Two Six and on Facebook. Just click the frame up above.
by Drew Noel
It's about time that art was displayed with art. Let's get those images off the screen and onto the wall.
As the ways to display works of art became mundane and stretched canvas prints became as common as an old 4x6 print, we put forth the challenge of how to display these images in a new way. The process of creating a truly unique display piece became lost in the masses of readily available companies willing to print, stretch, and sell. It was here that we decided the canvas was being masked and lost on the wall. We decided to create a new way of showing the material.
By fraying the edges we are once again shown that the canvas isn't just another paper - it has a distinct texture and feel that brings art to life. The next step was figuring a way to mount it to bring about a more elemental feel to the work. Metal scraps we found in the back was the original framework that would become a patented way of displaying art. Even to this day every piece of metal is individually aged for the sole purpose of bringing its canvas to light.
Every frame is different - every frame has its own personality - and that's the way we like it.
The best part about these frames is the original canvas prints can be swapped out for a "refill." This means you can keep the awesome industrial rustic impact of the frayed canvas and metal frame without having to toss the whole thing when you want to update. In 5 minutes you can switch out the canvas and be back on top with your favorite images.
Intro by Skip Cohen
This post, from Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep volunteer Jamie Galloway, first ran back in February on her blog. She's an Affiliated Photographer in Michigan. While it was hard for me to not tear up reading it, just before sharing, I love the way Jamie has written it and opened her heart. I love the way she makes the point about the child, going back and forth between a little boy or girl. I love the way she's taken us on her journey, from the perspective of a NILMDTS volunteer.
But, here's what I loved the most...at the end of her post she had written,
Hi, I’m Jamie, and I’m you’re Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep volunteer photographer. Thank you for allowing me the honor of capturing your precious angel.
And then she added...
Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep provides the gift of remembrance photography to parents are suffering the loss of a child. They are always seeking more volunteer photographers. If you have it in your heart to help heal, please consider applying.
Every NILMDTS volunteer, who I've met, has talked about the honor of being allowed to help these families so much in need of healing. They often talk about their first assignment and being afraid of not being able to hold back the tears. They never realize until they're actually photographing these babies that they're really "capturing love" as co-founder, Cheryl Haggard talked about. Every volunteer has a similar life-changing experience and often talk about their personal growth as a result of helping families heal.
This is recruitment month for NILMDTS - More information is just a click away on the banner above.
In the mean time, meet Jamie Galloway...
The call comes in.
Within minutes, my camera bag is packed. I grab my Ice Light and my special case of swaddling blankets. Then I’m driving. Sometimes it’s 10 minutes. Sometimes it’s an hour or more. We go where we are needed. The whole time I’m praying for you. This mother’s heart cannot even fathom what you’re going through.
I check in at the front desk. The badge I wear explains it all, the receptionist giving me a knowing look and leads me through a maze of corridors.
I enter with a kind smile. I give you a hug. I peer down at your angel and comment on how beautiful he is. How perfect she is. I give gentle direction in posing you with him in your arms. I offer encouragement while posing her in daddy’s hands. I cry with you. I cry for you. I stand in awe of your strength, knowing that your child wouldn’t live much beyond birth, and you chose to carry him to term. My heart breaks for you, when yesterday she was moving in your belly, but sometime during the night, in the warmth of your womb, she slipped away.
Sometimes your angel is in another room for me to photograph. I talk to her. I sing to him. I handle her so tenderly, and work to capture every tiny detail. The swirl of hair at the top of her head. The tiny wrinkles on the bottom of his feet. Those miniature but oh, so perfect, fingernails. I wrap him in a blanket I’ve brought to gift to you. I imagine this makes these images feel more personal, and less hospital-like.
Upon departing your room, I can usually make it to my car before I have to stop and let it out. This mother’s heart grieves for you. Breaks for you. Prays for you.
I retouch your images painstakingly, carefully, to show how beautiful your baby is. These are the precious, tangible memories you’ll carry with you forever. “Capture a moment of love, give a lifetime of healing”.
My friends say they don’t know how I can do this. I feel such a strong call to it, I don’t know how I can’t. I seek to honor every tiny life God has formed with His hands.
Image and post copyright Jamie Galloway. All rights reserved.
Note: I posted this yesterday, but didn't have the images to go with it, which further add to the story and help in understanding how your images can help the healing process of families caught in the tragedy of losing a child. My apologies for those of you seeing it a second time.
Each life, no matter how brief, deserves to be honored."
I'll start this guest post right off by saying I need your help...I'd love to get every professional photographer in this industry (Yeah, that's my wish list - it's a pretty lofty goal) to watch this video. But you might be surprised at the range of reasons why...
In terms of my own passion and understanding of NILMDTS, I'm one of several Ambassadors and I couldn't be more proud to be a part of this amazing team. I've gone from originally thinking the idea of photographing a baby who's about to die as morbid, to understanding the importance of, as Cheryl puts it in the video, capturing love. Without question, it's the most powerful emotional challenge a photographer can go through, but as each NILMDTS artist has shared here on the SCU site, being involved has created an incredible journey of growth, perception and understanding, helping make each one of them better people and artists.
To find out how you can be part of this amazing organization, just click the word love in the banner above and you'll be on their website and volunteer page. Thanks for joining me in this post...now, help me spread the word and let's get more people to hear what Cheryl has to say!