Stephanie Wettstein 12, Idiopathic Thrombocytopenic Purpura. May 2011, Bronx, NY.
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Hans Scipts 16, awaiting heart transplant. May 2011, Bronx, NY.
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Alfred Johnson 11, osteosarcoma, dances with Certified Child Life Specialist, Talia Haviv. May 2011, Bronx, NY.
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Jose Bonilla Herrera, 18, post kidney transplant. May 2011, Bronx, NY.
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(L-R) In pink, date of patient; in blue Zadie Gonzalez 13, post liver transplant; in peach Rosemary Ankomah 13, post liver transplant; in green Dazjahonique Johnson 13, brain tumor. May 2011, Bronx, NY.
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(L-R) James Linton 16, renal disease with Jose Bonilla Herrera 18, post kidney transplant. May 2011, Bronx, NY.
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Rosemary Ankomah 13, post liver transplant. May 2011, Bronx, NY.
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Alfred Johnson 11, osteosarcoma. May 2011, Bronx, NY.
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(L-R) Subject in mask agreed to be photographed but didn't want name used; Samantha Serrano 18, diabetes; and Rosemary Ankomah 13, post liver transplant. May 2011, Bronx, NY.
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Montefiore Children's Hospital Annual Prom crowns a king, queen, prince and princess every year, by vote. May 2011, Bronx, NY.
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Dominick Walters 19, Sickle Cell Anemia. May 2011, Bronx, NY.
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(L-R) Tatyana Maldonado 14, Sickle Cell Anemia, and Dazjahonique Johnson 13, brain tumor. May 2011, Bronx, NY.
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Trumpet player Riley Mulherkar at Montefiore Children's Annual Prom. May 2011, Bronx, NY.
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Kiara O'Loughlin 17, germ cell tumor, is crowned Prom Queen at Monefiore Children's Hospital Annual Prom. May 2011, Bronx, NY.
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(L-R) Mikiel Davis 15, Sickle Cell Anemia with date. May 2011, Bronx, NY.
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Jakai Fullerton 12, neuroblastoma, is asked to dance after being crowned Prom Prince at Monetifore Children's Annual Prom. May 2011, Bronx, NY.
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Staff member Meghan Kelly, director of Child Life; with patient (who agreed to be photographed but didn't want name used). May 2011, Bronx, NY.
Montefiore Children’s Hospital, located in the Bronx, hosts an annual prom for their teenage patients every year, offering them a temporary escape from their illness by providing them an opportunity to feel like normal kids for an evening.
Although the hospital has a whole mix of children with different illnesses, the majority of the kids, 600 patients in total, have sickle cell anemia, an inherited blood disorder that affects the red blood cell’s ability to delivery oxygen throughout the body. The amount of pain these children experience is unimaginable.
The prom was a great night; one many of us have experienced but I imagine can only be appreciated more by children who have fewer moments like it. Eleven year old, Alfred, who was sporting a large feather that night and danced up a storm suffers from bone cancer, which is the eighth most common form of childhood cancer. Hans, 16, who pulled around an IV machine the entire night was waiting for a heart transplant, which he has fortunately since received. A group of girls posing for the camera had liver transplants, and one of them a brain tumor.
I didn’t realize what an impact these children would have had on me. They have a strength in their eyes that I had never seen before. It’s incredibly beautiful, inspiring but at the same time immensely sad. The psychology behind sickness is something I have found interesting for quite some time. Emotionally and psychologically I cannot imagine what these kids are going through as a result of their illnesses. The reliance on medication, medication withdrawal, lack of social life, toll on family, as well as academic challenges which worsen when so much school is missed.
I have a personal connection to stories like this, and the reasons are personal. For eight years my younger sister was prescribed antidepressants for depression. During this period the drug had a profound effect on her emotional stability and exuberated her illness, ironically transforming it into something more chronic and making it more difficult for her to overcome her depression. The experience shaped my particular interests in photography specifically the issues I’m drawn to. Having someone you love stunted by illness is a difficult thing to witness. I hope this series of photographs captures the “child” and the “old soul” within these teens who have just began their life and lack so many things we take for granted.
JESSICA EARNSHAW was born in 1983 and is a Canadian photographer based in Brooklyn, New York.
She studied Documentary Filmmaking at The Gulf Islands Film and Television School in British Columbia, Canada, & Film Production at Concordia University in Montreal. She graduated in the 2010/11 Documentary Photography and Photojournalism Program at The International Centre of Photography in New York.
Jessica worked for several years in the documentary film and television in Canada before pursing a career in documentary photography. In 2010, she was the recipient of the Eastwood Onley Gallery Young Photographer’s Award and was exhibited in a number of solo shows in Vancouver where she raised $10,000 to go to school in New York. In 2011, Jessica was exhibited in the ICP graduate show in New York. Jessica’s long-term projects explore issues of birth, death and family.
Currently, Jessica is interning with TIME Magazine and runs their LightBox. She also assists Michael Kamber at the Bronx Documentary Centre part-time.