Sharing the stories and celebrating the lives of some very special children, The Heartfelt Photography Exhibition by The Australian Community of Child Photographers (ACOCP) is back for its second year. This year it’s in Melbourne.

Last year my heart was squeezed by the ACOCP. You can read more about my experiences with the organisation here and here.

Last year was my first volunteering with the ACOCP as their PR rep. In my first few weeks with the ACOCP my first job was to publicise ACOCP’s first Heartfelt Exhibition. During that time I learned a few things really fast.

  1. Photography is a way powerful force; not only in celebrating life but in honouring and in grieving it.
  2. Mainstream media shy right away from sensitively, graphically addressing the death of children, especially babies if it's not part of a sensational news story or it can't be wrapped up with a positive outcome and a silver lining. 
  3. Shying away from this topic is a huge dis-service to parents who have lost children and to people who want to recognise their loss but don’t know how to.

The Heartfelt Exhibition images are deeply touching and elegant and they are important to the healing of families who have lost or faced losing their precious children.  FREE to the public, the exhibition is a heartfelt collection of professional portraits by highly skilled photographers that manage to capture and convey the life of their subjects even when that life has already passed.

Last year the 2009 Heartfelt Exhibition was opened for the first time in Sydney at MLC Gallery. It was so popular the gallery extended its showing by several weeks.

Shane and Dawn Johnson’s twin daughters featured in the 2009 exhibition and on the opening night, Dawn gave an unforgettably moving speech on the story of her family and the role the ACOCP had played. The girls were born at 27 weeks. Ava was stillborn and Briana died a week later. Jessie Broome photographed the few precious moments their parents spent with the girls.  
Heartfelt Exhibition 2009: featuring ACOCP photography of Dawn and Shane Johnson and their girls, Ava and Briana

Last week, Dawn was kind enough to email me:
“It was an amazing experience to be able to share my story at last year’s opening night. Not only did it give me the opportunity to do something for the ACOCP in return for the photographs and memories they gave us, it also meant that I could be like ‘normal’ parents who get to dote over their children and talk about them constantly. I was able to share Ava and Briana and their memory with a room full of people who otherwise would never have known about their short but monumental existence in this world. Seeing as the girls aren’t here with me to create more memories, the 2009 Heartfelt Exhibition is a new and very positive memory that I will always hold close.”  
I’m not going to pretend you won’t need your tissues at Heartfelt, but you won’t regret going. You will get to know some very special children and their incredible families. You will also find out about some awesomely talented photographers who face challenges most professional photographers don’t.
ACOCP is an entirely-volunteer service that provides professional photographic gifts of children that are terminally ill; have been stillborn or born very early; or died neo-natally. Members of ACOCP’s nationwide network of photographers go on location at any time of the day and night to various hospitals to do the shoots. They also supply prints and albums to the families free of charge.

The Heartfelt Exhibition is open and FREE to the general public on:
21st July- 4th August 2010
Monday to Friday 9am to 6pm
Saturday 10am to 4pm
Sunday 12pm to 4pm

Location: Open Space Gallery, Eckersley’s Art & Craft, 97 Franklin Street, Melbourne, Victoria

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