Don’t miss “Teen Spirit,” a most affecting series of self-portraits by chronically ill teenagers, at the High Museum of Art‘s Greene Family Education Center through November 11.
You’ll meet Damani, a 16-year-old rapper and heart transplant survivor, who poses like a young Nijinsky, monitor wires in arabesques across his chest. And Allisa, who stands as erect as a queen with the help of hospital staff, embodying her cherished goal to stand up and walk by herself.
And Elizabeth. The floor is on the diagonal, and she is visible only from the hips down, bringing the focus to her one-legged stance and colorful mismatched socks — a vision of strength in an unstable world.
In the images and statements presented here, they and the rest of this heroic crew surmount the debilities and pain of disease and will themselves to be the people they want to be. As Abigail writes, “I have Crohn’s Disease, but Crohn’s most definitely doesn’t have me.”
This volunteer project, the brainchild of Atlanta Celebrates Photography board member Bill Boling and Director Amy Miller, was a team effort. Photographer Corinne Adams and a cadre of peers — Judy Lampert, Mary Fisher, Julia Sawyer, Laura Noel and Indy Cesare (the lone speech therapist) — worked at Scottish Rite and Egleston hospitals, aided by the hospitals’ devoted Child Life Activity specialists. They set up miniature photo studios with equipment donated to both hospitals by Atlanta law firm Morris, Manning & Martin, purchased at cost courtesy of Showcase Photo and Video.
Adams and her team began by discussing the concept of portraiture with the teenagers. What can you know about a person from a portrait? How can you say something about yourself? Does it have to be a face? Why not your little finger? Then they helped the young people generate their own compositions and take one another’s pictures.
Adams is awed by their creativity and character. “I wasn’t expecting profundity,” she says. “I leave every session with my heart pounding in my chest. This is what photography’s all about.”
That’s a sentiment shared by hospital staffers. “It was great to see two girls who both have not been out of their rooms in weeks due to pain fully enjoying themselves and smiling ear to ear,” one wrote to Adams. “Yesterday really showed us the importance of these patients learning to express themselves in a healthy way through art.”
If you want to volunteer for this ongoing project, please contact ACP.