Thursday, 23 April 2009

Meeting Oliver On The First Photoshoot

Today was my first 'Gifts of Life' photo shoot, other than William of course. Oliver is waiting for a kidney transplant and my also soon be assessed for a small bowel transplant. His bowel is behaving very similarly to William's own bowel did so his Mum and I had lots to talk about. One of the lovely things about this project is meeting people in different stages of their transplant journey. It is wonderful for us all to spend some time talking with others who understand our worries and challenges. You can read more about Oliver's story here and can see some of the (unedited) images in the 'Gifts of Life' gallery .

I was pretty nervous about this shoot. I feel such a responsibility to the participants to capture the very essense of their personality and their experiences of life. I had very narrow confines to work within for this shoot as Oliver was on his 24 hour TPN drip and was sitting on his dialysis chair. Unfortunately, his line had just failed and the photos were taken between being removed from the machine he was on and being re-connected to a different form of dialysis. The ward was busy with other children on dialysis and I had to be careful not to include anyone else in the shot. This limited the perspectives and angles I could work within. As I was shooting in the hospital and Oliver is a minor, there had to be a representative from the hospital communications department present. She had misunderstood the breif and thought she was to take some pictures so arrived with an identical camera to mine. This made me feel quite self conscious. I did make use of this later though and asked her to take some pictures of me taking pictures of Oliver that can be used in some of the project publicity.

Oliver is a wonderful boy, full of life and very cheeky. I found it a challenge to capture this within the parameters I was working in. William is only 4 and easy to shoot candid without him noticing too much. He has also got used to Mum's incessant camera clicking and ignores it to a point, before requesting 'No more photos!'. Understandably, Oliver was much more self-conscious due to his age at 8 years old and not being the son of a Mum who watched a large proportion of life through a view finder. I had to keep in close proximity to avoid capturing anyone else in the shot and because we only had a bed space to work within. The best way to photograph Oliver within these confines was to be semi-posed portraits. I learned a lot from him about capturing children in this way. You take loads of OK shots while they get used to you before a golden time of about 2 minutes while they really connect with you and let you connect with them. Just as you are really enjoying life and looking forward to loads of great shots, they get fed up and you have lost them. I hope I have captured Oliver well.

I went away feeling really quite emotional. I am used to life as a 'gastro mum' at Chelsea and Westminster and, for a time, I had stepped in and observed life as a 'kidney mum' in another hospital. I was reminded of lots that I had been through and felt the pain and anguish the Mum's I met were experiencing as they wait for that call to tell them a kidney has been found for their child. These feeling were extended to the other Mums I met in the lifts, atriums and corridors, their stories told on their faces and the children who accompanied them. I must confess to a brief spell in the loo on the way out, whilst I got rid of some tears.

Oliver seemed on great form this morning and I was sad to log onto Facebook later in the afternoon to read a status update from his Mum saying how worried she was as he had become very poorly during the afternoon. I am hoping he is OK. He needs his transplant and he needs it soon.


  1. Congratulations on your first shoot Sarah the photo's are great , Oliver seems a very cheeky little man. I hope that his call comes very soon and that he remains as stable as he can throughout his wait for his transplant.

    Emma x

  2. I took photos of my son's transplant journey as well. It was very cathartic for me. I think this will be a great project. Good luck to you and I'll be watching.

  3. Hello, please could I have a link to his facebook group? Thanks, Vikki (