Special needs children cast in beautiful fantasy scenes incorporating their wires, tubes and life-preserving apparatus as ‘accessories’
By Josh Saunders
Special needs children have been cast in beautiful fantasy scenes that incorporate their wires, tubes and life-preserving apparatus as ‘accessories.’
Angela Forker, 50, from New Haven, Indiana, USA, started the Precious Baby Project nine-months-ago to celebrate and redefine perceptions of children with differences.
The mission is in memory of Madalyn Grace Solis, whose parents disregarded doctor’s advice to abort their child and instead after her miraculous birth, celebrated her 15 days of life.
After photographing the Madalyn, a day before she passed away last year, she started working with other terminally ill babies and children with special needs.
The grandmother-of-three has conjured everything from babies flying to jumping on a trampoline, parachuting, living as a mermaid, winning a race and more.
In one, she transformed a child’s breathing trach and a headwear – used to reshape the skull bones – into an oxygen line from a spaceship and space helmet.
Instead of hiding the children’s conditions she tries to embrace them like ‘accessories’ and makes them all part of the elaborate scenes.
Each session can take up to 20 hours of her time and so far, she has photographed 25 babies – for some parents her images will serve as a memory of their child’s time on earth.
Angela said: “Many photographers are at a loss with special needs babies as some struggle to sit up for long and may not look at the camera.
“I wanted to create a fantastic scene where all the babies would have to do is lie there.
“I have worked with a lot of terminally ill babies, some will never walk so I love getting them to do something impossible like flying, jumping on a trampoline or sailing a boat.
“I hope to have scenes that incorporate the child’s life that will allow the parents to remember what their child was like here on earth.
“I try to take into consideration either the family’s interests or the baby’s condition, and instead of trying to hide tubes and wires I feature them.
“One baby awaiting heart surgery is in a hot air balloon with a bear in the process of being stitched back together.
“These pictures had a big mission to help people see babies and people with special needs in a different way – to show they are valuable and worthy of love.”
Angela first created fantasy scenes six years ago for her grandson Ricky which she compiled into a book, while experimenting with new born photography.
In 2017, she photographed Madalyn who suffered from the most severe form of Holoprenosencephaly – after hearing the family’s situation through her church.
From the photographs taken during the emotional shoot she knew the little girl could ‘live on forever’ and later would start the Precious Baby Project in her memory.
Angela said: “Madalyn’s parents wanted to give her a chance of life, even knowing she may not make it through the pregnancy they wanted to hold her and let her know they loved her.
“Their love for her was so inspiring and she lived for 15 days, instead of mourning her loss they celebrated each day they had with her.
“I made a little crown for her because they called her princess, it’s very special and in memory of Madalyn who is now looking down on her family so lovingly.
“It was life changing for me, it touched my heart seeing how much they loved her and how she was the most beautiful baby ever.”
Since then she has been photographing other children, using fabrics and ordinary items to conjure her incredible scenes.
Angela said: “I have a big collection of material and am a master of using items in a non-traditional way.
“I have so much fun using ordinary items to turn them into something else.”
Angela tries to mould the scenes around the baby’s conditions, the parents’ interests or hobbies, and more.
Some of the images these will go onto become a lasting memory of the children and others a beautiful piece of art.
Angela said: “One of the babies, Max, his dad is a paratrooper, so I had him as a paratrooper diving out of a plane and he gave us the biggest smile.
“I try to come up with meaningful titles, that one was called ‘Jumping into the Unknown’ due to his condition being scary but also the great joy he brings.
“For another family, during their pregnancy the mom went into septic shock, which a lot of people die from, and when the baby was miraculously born, he had Down Syndrome.
“I showed their baby in turbulent waters with a lighthouse shining out and guiding their baby to safety on a boat named ‘Blessed’ – which was a word their parents asked me to feature.
“The light from the lighthouse shines down protecting him and made all the difference in that scene, it was a nice piece of symbolism.”
Angela hopes her images help to reshape people’s perceptions of children with special needs and the value of their lives in society.
While she admits the shoots can be particularly difficult due to trying to get children’s attention and position them correctly, her time with the families is exciting and often overwhelming.
Amanda said: “It’s a miracle to have the final picture and often the families are moved to tears.
“I feel so grateful these pictures turn out the way they do and are seen by people as making a difference.”
For more information visit: www.preciousbabyphotography.com