Sunday, March 27, 2011


I am torn.

I want to attend this information meeting next week. Heartfelt is an organisation I wish we had known about in 2004, when we had a rather shady digital camera that did its best in the Newborn ICU but was all we had and, after all, we were going to have a lifetime to get perfect angles and correct apertures and capture our baby and ourselves in our best light.

Weren't we?

Little did I know that when the only thought going through my mind was "Leave us alone, there'll be time for family photos when we get out of here" when the nurse insisted on taking this photo of us - and making me lift my head and smile when all I wanted to do was keep my eyes on my child because it was so rare to have her outside of that plastic box that was keeping her alive - that nurse actually took our ONLY family photos together. All three of us. Steve, Ellanor and me. She snapped four and it's all we have now.

I wish I knew her name so that I could remember her because she'll never know what she did for us.

I'm smiling but my face says "There'll be plenty of time for happy snaps, go 'way."

It's little wonder that I feel compelled to attend the Heartfelt session when I come across the cute Miffy photo album of carefully placed photos that my husband put together in the weeks after his daughter's death. He made it up to have with him at work - he was still a proud father and he still liked to show people photos as much as I, but it became a chore rather than a proud parental moment when, one by one, people did not want to see photos of our baby with wires and tapes all over her face and body, especially knowing now that it had all been in vain.

It was this that initially prompted me to turn photos of Ella into works of art. I had the hours, after all, so I painstakingly went through and improved many of the 370 photos we have of her. I made all the bruising, the velcro tapes, the needle marks disappear. I improved her skin and it soothed me to see her look like she wasn't in pain or being inflicted with medical procedures to keep her alive.

Dozens of photos retouched like this...

I only wonder now what it would have been like if I'd had professional photos to work with. I've done the best I could with the camera we had. It makes me wonder the results I could come up with for people if I was given their photos taken by Heartfelt photographers. I don't know! Once again, my lack of a piece of paper (for I am self-taught) is messing with my head and self-worth.

And it is this that is the single-handed reason why we now own a proper digital SLR. We went out and bought it as soon as we started IVF. Talk about expecting lightning to strike twice...

On finding the Miffy album yesterday, only minutes after I found out about the Heartfelt information session, the LGBB came up and wanted to see what was inside. We sat down together and from the first page, she shut the album, crying and scared of seeing her sister that way. This was an album of the raw photos. Lolly has only ever been exposed to the ones I have improved. It stung me in my heart a little. I was all at once sad that she couldn't face them - but understood perfectly why she couldn't - and really relieved I had done this to the photos so that she has been able to connect with her sister and not be repelled by all the scary looking stuff on her body.

To be honest, I don't know whether I would be able to help the Heartfelt project. I do know they are after professional photographers (which I am not) and photo retouchers (which I would think I am) and it is actually a service that I have done for a couple of people in the past, but never pursued.

I have many projects on the go at any one time and I wonder if I would be able to commit myself to the time it would take. On the other hand, I ask myself, if I have this skill, how could I not? Are there many other Photoshop artists who are skilled in doing this and willing to give of their time for free and work with this subject matter? I'm not sure. That's why I feel compelled to go.

But I'm also scared to go. I would not be able to live with myself if I committed to helping out and then let anyone down if I couldn't keep up in high demand times.

What to do?

At any rate, I want to spread the word about this network of amazing photographers. You can join their Facebook group, visit their website and follow them on Twitter.

Heartfelt, indeed.

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