The Heart Gallery: Forever Families for Foster Children

About six months ago I volunteered for The Heart Gallery of America. It’s a “traveling photographic and audio exhibit created to find forever families for children in foster care.” I’d first heard of it a couple of years ago, and I knew I’d eventually sign up as a volunteer photographer. They don’t have a chapter in Ventura county, so it was suggested I sign up with the LA chapter. Only recently was I notified of an opportunity in my area, and it turned out to be within a mile of my house! So for the first time today I did a Heart Gallery portrait session.

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This shoot had me nervous. The child I was going to photograph was a fourteen year old girl. Severely disabled, wheelchair-bound, unable to speak, barely able to hold her head up…how was I going to do this? In what kind of environment would this be? Would there be any locations suitable for the portraits, or was it going to be a sterile institutional setting? Would she even look at the camera? All sorts of disastrous scenarios went through my head in the lead up to this shoot.

Turns out I was worrying too much. The little girl lived in a house with full-time care, along with three or four other girls who also had special needs. I got there during snack time, so I had a few minutes to set up my equipment. The house had a nice little backyard with a tree in it, which is where I took the portraits.

This little girl was definitely aware of me and her surroundings. She responded well when I spoke to her, although she didn’t smile. At one point I showed her the images on the back of the camera, and I didn’t think she really comprehended what she was seeing. But at the end, I asked if she wanted to see the pictures again…and I think she nodded. Definitely something changed in her eyes that told me she wanted to see them, so I showed her. And when I thought we were done, I started to set the camera down. Her gaze was locked on that camera as it moved away: she wasn’t done looking, that’s for sure! So I showed her a few more images.

It wasn’t a long shoot,  but it was an intense way to start my relationship with the Heart Gallery. I had been so worried about screwing up or the session going badly, that I hadn’t prepared myself for the fact that I might be moved emotionally by it. But I definitely was. I’m still sorting through my emotional response to the shoot.

For privacy reasons, I can’t show you the images. Although I’m sure they’ll go up on the Heart Gallery LA website at some point. But I can at least show you one of the lighting set-up shots I made. 🙂

13 thoughts on “The Heart Gallery: Forever Families for Foster Children

  1. You achieved a goal.You could not be insensitive when in front of your face is a little girl with disabilities.Especially, when you see in her eyes a crazy desire to be normal, live her life like other people.

    So you were worried that the shoot won’t be like you would expect to be.But it was better than you thought.
    I’m happy that you succeeded beginning a relationship with the Heart Gallery.This episode from your life was a good experience.You learned some more things about life and her mysterious paths.

    I wish you good luck in your career!

  2. Really a heart touching event in your life…
    I feel the feel that you would have had there at those movements…
    Really eager, to look the pictures over the Heart Gallery…

  3. Wow what an incredible program to be part of. God bless you for volunteering your time to make a little girl feel good. I am sure you touched her life as much as she touched yours. Great story to share.

  4. God will surely bless you for what you’ve done, continue touching others life, keep inspiring them and don’t be tired doing..thank you..

  5. I love how you capture the moment of what you were feeling going into the session. Can’t wait to check out the photos. Nice work.

  6. I’ve been touched by your blog. It is good to know that there are still people offering their service for free. I give a visit and I’m glad to see those children smile. Nice work bro! Cheers!

  7. nice venture..totally interesting and you really can reach out a helping hand to the needy children..good work i hope your fellow photographers would join your journey.

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