Photography is an immensely personal medium that allows people to unleash their creativity. Any sort of photo will produce a reaction from others, but there are photography projects where the creators have specifically used their skills to bring attention to issues and make people stop and think. Take one dad’s shoot where he transformed kids with disabilities into superheroes or a London-based photographer’s shoot which shows the subtle similarities and differences of twins.
Another project that is meant to bring awareness is The Precious Baby Project. Photographer Angela Forker wanted a way she could use her photography to help others, and the project featuring babies with functional needs was born.
Click through to see the breathtaking images from The Precious Baby Project and to find out more about it.
Forker is a photographer who specializes in newborns and is known for her creative Baby ImaginArt. She explained to A Plus via email that this involves using fabric to “paint” backdrops and using ordinary items to create a whimsical scene that a baby is a part of. The finished results look like a scene out of a storybook with the effect of little ones flying, dancing and more.
“After a time of reflection and prayer at the beginning of this year, I asked God how He might use my photography to make a difference,” the photographer recalls. “This past February, I came to realize that my Baby ImaginArt scenes would be perfect for babies with medical conditions that prevented them from being able to sit up for a photo. That was when The Precious Baby Project was birthed in my heart.”
Forker decided she would photograph babies with serious medical conditions at no cost to the parents in the fantastical scenes.
“I’m raising awareness for babies with special needs, while bringing hope and encouragement to their families — as well as giving them a piece of art that they will cherish for a lifetime!”
So far, The Precious Baby Project series has seen her “transport” babies with functional needs into scenes with unicorns, gumball raindrops, farms, and space.
Forker explains that she will often ask parents for input when coming up with ideas for the scenes if she doesn’t already have something in mind. “I like to try to incorporate either the child’s medical condition or something that is of interest to the family,” she explains.
For example, for the “astronaut baby” photo pictured above, Forker incorporated his trach tube as his oxygen line and helmet. She wants the little one to know that “the sky’s the limit.”
In another “Mended Heart” photo, the photographer wanted to incorporate symbolism for congenital heart disease (CHD) because the little one had one heart procedure and was preparing for his first open-heart surgery. She used red and blue, a CHD tree, and added a bear sewing his heart with the stitching not yet complete.
The New Haven, Indiana, photographer reveals that the scene that best sums up the project is the “Hope Is In Our Genes” one. “Since this is the motto for rare disease awareness, I thought it would be fun to have this adorable baby boy with trisomy 18 and two bear friends, all wearing jeans and flying away with some balloons made out of jeans that spell out ‘hope,’ ” explained Forker.
The tree in the scene also holds significance because it’s a “gene” tree made out of denim material and shaped to look like DNA.
The photographer reveals that this scene is always the largest central piece when the canvases are displayed at different hospital clinics or local YMCAs.
The photographer explains that when parents first contact her they are a bit hesitant. “Many of them have protected their baby by not posting photos — or not showing the affected body parts on social media,” she states. “They are not ashamed of their child; they just don’t want anyone to be cruel to their child. I assure them that everyone’s reaction to the photos from The Precious Baby Project has been overwhelmingly positive.”
Many families have traveled three to four hours for the shoots. When parents see the scenes Forker has spent four to 10 hours creating for the shoot, they all get excited.
One difference between her usual newborn sessions and ones for The Precious Baby Project is that Forker asks parents involved in the latter to dress their children in the outfit for the scene and to place them into it.
She shoots the scenes from above on a ladder. “I do whatever it takes to get those winning shots,” she explains. “It could take anywhere from 10 minutes to an hour. It is often quite difficult to get their attention and get their bodies into the correct position, so I take many shots.”
Once she completes the scenes, Forker takes close-ups of the babies. This is important because she reveals many of the parents have never had professional portraits of their little ones.
For the final images, Forker works her magic with Photoshop, usually compositing two to 10 photos to create what she considers a “successful scene.”
“When I see the final image — after hours of work — I frequently get so emotional that I’m moved to tears,” she reveals. “I remember the parents’ love for their child, and I think about how that baby captured my heart and I’m so happy that I’m able to give them this unique piece of art featuring their beautiful baby.”
The parents’ reactions are very similar. “Every family has been extremely appreciative of everything I’ve done for them. There are no words to express how fulfilling this is for me.
“My life has been changed since I’ve come in close contact with these precious babies and their amazing families.”
The Precious Baby Project is ongoing. With the need to balance her regular photography, Forker shoots about one or two babies for the project per month, but she is constantly looking for more participants. One of her goals in particular is to add more diversity to it. Another goal is to see it displayed in more public areas to heighten awareness. And she has hopes for books, calendars, and children’s books.
She says, “These babies have a purpose and their photos are going to change how the world sees them!”