I've been a volunteer photographer with Emily's House, a children's hospice here in Toronto, for exactly a year now. My first event for them was last year's Hike for Hospice, and in the 365 days since I've supported them with event photography for some fun events. However, I've also helped the families they serve document the final days of some very beautiful children.
It's a challenging situation. The photos are some of the most beautiful I think I've ever produced, with the pure emotional weight of their importance making them shine in my eyes. Yet, those photos are probably the most personal photos I ever take, so I'm unable to share them. It's volunteer work, and I can attest that it is at once the most rewarding and most heartbreaking work I ever take on.
The weight of the work is illustrated in an interaction I had with one of the Emily's House nurses, who, after I'd been snapping photos of one girl and her family for an hour, asked me if I think I'd gotten enough photos. I was completely at a loss to respond. How many photos of a dying baby is enough? Shouldn't I grind my shutter down to sand, snapping picture after picture after picture in the vain hope that the next one will be the one to perfectly preserve the life that was lost?
Anyway. Hike for Hospice is definitely one the most openly joyful events I help out with. Even on a very rainy day in May, the life and energy of all the other volunteers, as well as the strength and the light of the families in attendance, was more than enough to obliterate the grey.