When a preborn or newborn baby is diagnosed with a life-threatening medical condition, parents have so much to think about that normal life can seem like a far-off thing. Parents may only have days or weeks to spend with their new baby and every moment counts. Professional photographers like Angela Forker of New Haven, Indiana, are helping by offering their services free of charge to these families. Forker designs one-of-a-kind photoshoots for babies with chronic health conditions for her Precious Baby Project, creating inspired and beautiful artwork that serves as the backdrop for amazing photographs for parents to cherish for the rest of their lives. She dresses babies as mermaids, ladybugs, and fairies — or as if they are running, playing, or flying.
“The sanctity of life is behind my business name and at the very heart of the Precious Baby Project,” she told Live Action News.
The parents of the children she photographs are eternally grateful — parents like Gabi and Connor Wilkinson.
The Wilkinsons have adopted three children: Audrey, Abram, and Ellis. Abram and Ellis were adopted through Special Angels Adoption which places children with health conditions with forever families. Ellis had suffered brain damage at or before birth. She has cerebral palsy, cortical visual impairment, a weakened immune system, and a rare seizure disorder which can be fatal if uncontrolled.
“We adopted Ellis because, like I said, we wanted to be parents,” Connor Wilkinson told WKRC 12 News. “For us, that wasn’t designing the perfect baby, it was recognizing that all kids are perfect and that we wanted to help the kids who needed a home.”
The couple says that pictures are a normal part of life, so when Ellis’ condition worsened and they knew her time on earth would be cut shorter than expected, they contacted Forker. Unsure how many days or months they had left with their daughter, they asked Forker to schedule a photoshoot as soon as possible.
Forker created a scene in which Ellis would be a “forget-me-not-fairy,” choosing red roses because Ellis can see the color red and because her middle name is Rose.
“She gave Ellis dignity and recognized that she is not this sick dying baby, but she is a toddler and she deserves the same, the same recognition that other kids her age do,” the Wilkinsons told WKRC. “[…] People look at the photo and they don’t think, oh, that poor baby. They think, wow that’s beautiful, which is what I think when I see her.”
The family of baby Angel, who is from China, flew halfway across the country to have a photoshoot with Forker. Angel, whose family has nicknamed her The Queen, has Wolf-Hirschhorn syndrome. One out of three children with the condition dies before their second birthday. Angel, who is adopted, is almost two.
“She’s come through everything like a fighter, she’s amazing,” her mother Jill Trotter told BBC News. “She has status seizures. They can be deadly seizures. She’s come through every one.”
Angel’s birthparents had expressed interest in having Angel’s adoptive family celebrate Chinese New Year with her, so that was the inspiration behind Angel’s photoshoot. Angel is pictured with a Chinese calendar and her sign – Fire Monkey. A dragon floats above her.
What’s most unique about Forker’s photography is that she doesn’t try to hide the medical equipment that sustains these children’s lives. She incorporates it, even turning one baby with a head-shaping helmet and oxygen tubes into an astronaut (pictured in header image above).
“These babies with special needs have, what I call, accessories. And a lot of photographers are also at a loss, they try to hide these,” Forker told BBC. “I want to feature these accessories, this is a part of their story.”
Forker can be seen choking back tears in her interview with BBC and it’s obvious that creating these photographs is an emotional experience for her.
“We’re showing the whole world that babies and people with special needs are beautiful,” she explained to BBC, “and that they’re worthy of our love.”