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Cheryl Jacobs

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I've been consumed for the past twenty-four hours by an e-mail I received yesterday. It was from a mother of two children who is expecting her third in August. She was making the usual request for additional portrait info and pricing.

What set her letter apart was her circumstances. Her unborn baby has a fatal birth defect and will not live more than a few days after delivery. She wanted to know if I would be willing to come to the hospital when the baby is born to do the only complete famly portrait they will ever have. My heart is breaking for them, and while I am not at all sure how I will get through the session, I am incredibly honored that she approached me.

In this case, it is not so much about capturing how the child changes over the years, but about capturing how much the child changes us, instantly, unknowingly, and effortlessly.

I found myself, during today's sessions, going about this 'job' with more tenderness, more openness, and more depth than I did yesterday. I still can't think about that e-mail without tearing up, but that is what it's all about.

No pretty wording here, but I really felt compelled to share this.
 

Juraj Kovacik

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That's really difficult task you are standing ahead. I believe you will manage it with the some grace I can find out in your best pictures. Do your service. Juraj
 

FrankB

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They couldn't have asked a better person to do this for them.

All the best,

Frank
 

fotographz

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you will do the family....

......a great honor and something truly wonderful in the process.
much respect to you.
Frank
 

Les McLean

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Cheryl,

Do the job with with the care and sensitivity that you've shown in your post, and in fact in all of your posts, and the family will have a wonderful set of photographs. I'm certain that the family will also help you through the day for they have clearly thought about it and are people with the same feelings as you.
 

glbeas

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This is one assignment where tearstains on the prints won't be seen as a defect. Thanks for sharing Cheryl.
 

dr bob

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Everyone is different, but having read many of your postings and observed your fine work, I’m sure you will do a great job.

While never having to work under your exact circumstances, I have had jobs involving a serious emotional envolvement. The anxiety was always worse than the actual task once work began. But, after completion, there was another quite different emotional issue. In retrospect I often have had more difficulty dealing with emotions than when actually working. That is when the Mate became very important.
 

David A. Goldfarb

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In the Victorian period, when infant and child mortality were fairly high, photography of deceased children was quite common. They would typically be dressed as in life and photographed as if they were sleeping. I suppose it is fortunate that this family knows what is coming, and they have found someone with a sensitive eye to preserve the child's image while still alive.

Even when death is not on the immediate horizon, though, the idea of preserving the human image beyond death or change has always been a factor in the genre of portraiture, even before photography. This kind of assignment brings that part of the work to the surface. I'm sure you'll handle it well.
 

BWGirl

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Cheryl,
What extrodinary clients! In this day and age, it must warm your heart to see such sensitivity and love for this small, fragile life that will pass too quickly.

Like many of the others here, I too have seen your photos and agree that if anyone can capture the love in this family, it is you. You will be in all our thoughts and we will send extra special thoughts to this family.

Jeanette
 

jovo

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"In this case, it is not so much about capturing how the child changes over the years, but about capturing how much the child changes us, instantly, unknowingly, and effortlessly"

Perhaps that will be the case then too...and in an instant, whatever concerns you have about getting through the session will evaporate. You are an extraordinary photographer and deeply empathetic woman. I can't help but believe the results and the process will be extraordinary as well.
 

photomc

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Good for you..one point to share, in the types of situations you should be prepared for many events. The baby may not live long enough for the photo shoot - so be prepared for that, the baby could go 'during' the photo shoot..your emotions will be all over the place..so will everyone else. We were fortunate to have the time when mother died to spend the day at hospice with her, the one thing wished I could have done was brought a camera to capture everyone coming and going throughout the day..but the family was not open to the idea and out of respect..you get the idea.

So since the family has approached you..please do it, you will be amazed at how you go into auto mode and how you will get through it...

Good Luck and Thanks for Sharing.
 

Jim Chinn

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My mother had a sister who died within the first year of her life. Being in the 20s and living on a farm, baby portraits were a luxury. Now, years later, after all the siblings pass away, there will be nothing left to remember her by other than a grave marker and a public record.

Your images, no matter how difficult will always be a reminder to family that in her few moments with us on this Earth she had a profound effect on many. I think in the years to come your portrait will help those who see it understand that the bonds of love always transcend the fragility of our human existence.
 
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To me, one of the biggest and most important functions of portraits is to keep people, as it were. A photograph may very well outlive the physical person, and as such it has a personal significance to it not found in other types of photography. These images may never bring happiness in and of themselves, but the fact that they exist will serve as a reminder of something the family apparently never wants to forget, and that is good. It will be a hard thing to do, but I know you will do a wonderful job.
 

JohnArs

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Hi Cheryl

I really understand it very good because I have a bit a similar action going on.I have to take a wedding shooting from a very sick woman at 10. July and she told me on the phone "it will be my last large event and my last wish but I'm not strong enough to make it longer then for 3 hours including the church and apero after the church".
But she hopes to survive till then. Mabye she took me because she nows from others thad I'm a really fast wedding photographer and have never failed till now, nock on wood!
I got also very silent when she was first time on the phone and told me here story just yesterday, she has to do everything in a hurry now, what she wants completed!
Normaly I do not accept so short weddings, but in this case I will do it and give my best for here and the whole family!
All the best to you Cheryl!!!
 

matt miller

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Back in 1995, my wife & I had a 5 month old son that died suddenly from SIDS. I can tell you that the photographs we have of Robby are some of our most prized possessions. This was before my photography days, so we have mostly snapshots and some photos from the local cheapo portrait studio. Nothing of great quality, but still priceless nonetheless. Our oldest daughter was 2 when Robby died and we’ve since had two more daughters. We all really enjoy studying those photos of Robby from time to time.

You definitely have a gift for photographing people. Don’t worry about getting the perfect shot, just do what you do. Any photo you make for this family will be a masterpiece to them.
 

scootermm

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cheryl
after reading this thread I ventured over to your website to view your work.
astounding. you have such emotion and feeling in your portraits. the connection and comfort of your "clients" seems almost family like.
I am truly impressed and in regards to your present situation you will undoubtedly create images of wonderful quality and ones that this family will never forget.
 

kwmullet

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Cheryl,

I'm sure the emotions you bring to session are part of the reason why they chose you and why your work, in turn, inspires the emotions it does.

I don't know if this family had an amazing amount of insight or were just lucky, but it's very good that they chose a photographer whose method and materials are far more likely to last decades into the future than that of 90%+ of the rest of the portraitists around.

I frequently wonder what archivists and researchers will think of this generation a hundred years hence when less than one percent of the photography survives. One thing's likely, though. Your portraits of this family will be among them, and will speak well of this time.

-KwM-
 
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Cheryl Jacobs

Cheryl Jacobs

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Thank you all so much. Just knowing this family is out there, and so many others like them, has given me a sense of urgency about what I'm doing. It's an honor, but one that comes with a tremendous amount of pressure. I've got some time to let the situation sink in a little bit and gather my thoughts.

Matt, I've so sorry about Robby. I really appreciate your perspective and encouragement. That's exactly why I want to do this family's session -- moments that are hauntingly beautiful that can never be experienced again.

Again, thanks.
 

Annemarieke

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Cheryl,
The others are right, this family couldn't have chosen a better photographer and even more important a better *person* to make the first and last images of their little baby.

I wish you a lot of strength for this job. Just do your 'thing' and I'm sure the photos will be absolutely beautiful.

Thanks for sharing this story, and thanks to the others for sharing their story too.

Anne Marieke
 
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Cheryl Jacobs

Cheryl Jacobs

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Thanks to all for your kind words and support. The baby was scheduled to be induced on August 10, but the mother went into labor early this morning, five weeks before the baby's due date. Please keep this family in your thoughts and prayers, as they thought they had a few more weeks to prepare for this. (As did I.)

- CJ
 

TPPhotog

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Cheryl,

I think most things have already been said above, so other than to add my good wishes to the comments all I can offer is that I feel as long as at least one print of a person is in existence then they are never forgotten. Kind regards and my very best wishes Tony
 
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Cheryl Jacobs

Cheryl Jacobs

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Thank you all for your support as I went through this experience. I visited and photographed Caroline and her family yesterday; Caroline passed away this morning. I was absolutely blessed and privileged to have been a part of her life.

It is no small thing to have held and loved an angel like Caroline.
 
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