Continuing our Photographers Giving Back Series, we are happy to feature Jasmine’s Heart, a charity dedicated to capturing beautiful photo-journalistic portraits of babies in neo-natal intensive care units (NICU), founded by our very own Creative Team member Dana Suggs.
I have always loved babies! My baby brother came home from the hospital on my 3rd birthday, and I thought he was the best present ever….my own living baby doll! I have the BEST.PARENTS.EVER! That’s probably when it started.
A few years ago, I had a friend on a mommy board who was so happy to be pregnant again, and we on the board rejoiced with her from all over the United States! Unfortunately, she went into preterm labor and delivered her beautiful baby, that we were so happy about, too early.
“Jasmine Eternity was born on July 18, 2005. She weighed 1lb 3oz and was 12 inches long. She was born at 23 weeks gestation, and only lived for a little over an hour. We were able to be with her for several hours, so we took pictures of her and memorized her pretty little face, long fingers and toes… tiny everything but so perfectly made. She is missed so much, but was a blessed for the short time she was here. Someday we will see the big picture as God sees it and understand.”–Emily Romero
Our hearts were broken with her and for her. Then over the years, I became aware of the huge need for parents with babies in the NICU to have portraits and actual visual remembrances of their beautiful babies. Emily stated that she only had quick, blurry photos of this daughter she will never see again, this side of Heaven. There are organizations that photograph babies after they have passed….but what about babies in the NICU? We all want photos of our babies to share with friends and family, but unfortunately, we can’t always have those if our babies are sick.
So, Jasmine’s Heart was born out of this tragedy. Having a baby in the NICU is such a scary, dark time, and true, some would not want to remember those days. But sadly, sometimes those babies do not go home and the family is left with nothing. I’d like to give parents at least the option of having portraits of their babies.
These photos are done in a photo-journalistic fashion because the babies can be very fragile. The parents can hold and feed their babies while I quietly snap the photos. In some cases, the baby has already been disconnected from feeding tubes or IVs, but sometimes they are not and we just work around it.
There are rules I have to adhere to, and some hospitals have refused my entry into the NICU, but I have to be respectful of their staff and their rules.
I never use flash. It is too harsh, even to bounce, on baby’s eyes and startling. In some cases, the rooms are so dimly lit to keep baby safe, but I just have to use a higher ISO and embrace the grain. I do what I can to ensure the baby’s health, even if it means a little grain.
Giving these parents a little something they may not otherwise have of their baby makes me happy. This is a free service to the parents, both session as well as photos. It’s giving something back. Throwing a little bit of good out into the universe, and hope that it comes back one day.
Dana Suggs is an on-location photographer based in Tulsa, Oklahoma, specializing in Children and Seniors photography. She’s been married for 20 years and is the mother of 3 natural-born children and proud foster-parent (soon-to-be ADOPTIVE mom) to 3 more. She believes that her insides are filled with sparkles and glitter and that’s why it’s a little chunkier than everyone else. HA! You can find her on her Photography website, Facebook Fanpage (she LOVES
stalkers Likers) and, of course, she is a PROUD member of our Creative Team for I Heart Faces!