Tag Archives: New York Times

My P.S. on Our Flashes of Hope Shoot

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I recently wrote about our shoot for Flashes of Hope. The purpose of these sessions is to create portraits of some of the 12,000 children diagnosed with cancer each year. For families of terminally-ill children it is particularly important to preserve through photography the bravery, grace and dignity of their child. This is done using volunteer professional photographers as well as sponsors such as WHCC, the professional lab that donates photographic prints to the families.

Though most Flashes of Hope photo sessions take place in a hospital, we photographed at a picnic hosted by Advocate Lutheran General Hospital. A forest preserve provided a much more relaxed atmosphere for these kids than a hospital setting. It was an afternoon of ice cream instead of IV tubes.

The same day that I photographed 15 children and their families, I read the following in the New York Times: “RIGHT now cancer care is being rationed in the United States.” There is a severe shortage of cancer drugs. In fact, in “Shortchanging Cancer Patients” Ezekiel J. Emanuel reports, “If you are a pediatric oncologist, you know how to cure 70 to 80 percent of patients. But without these drugs you are out of business.” Apparently, the shortages seem to be the results of corporate decisions to cease production because of low profit margins.

This is just ONE thing that these kids and their families face on a daily basis. It’s not hard to see bravery on their faces in the photos.

If Flashes of Hope “changes the way children with cancer see themselves through the gift of photography” as they say on their web site, I think quite possibly they’ve changed the way photographers see themselves as well. If drug manufacturers could see some of these kids there might also be some changes in how they see their mission.

Posted in black & white photography, portraits, Uncategorized Also tagged , , , |

World View From a Sweet Potato

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I’m a fan of Nicholas Kristof, the New York Times op ed columnist. I like his insights into human rights issues. He writes with the authority of one who has lived in the field and he does so with courage, caution, a straight-forward style and usually with a sense of urgency.

Kristof has been called “the moral conscience of our generation of journalists.” Bill Clinton said in 2009, “There is no one in journalism, anywhere in the United States at least, who has done anything like the work he has done to figure out how poor people are actually living around the world, and what their potential is….So every American citizen who cares about this should be profoundly grateful that someone in our press establishment cares enough about this to haul himself all around the world to figure out what’s going on…”

Somehow I missed his Thanksgiving column last year. I came across it two weeks ago while doing some research on, of all things, the sweet potato. Kristof begins by promising “a happy column about hunger” and concludes with a solution to starvation in Africa based on the sweet potato. It is the middle of Bless the Orange Sweet Potato that nearly made me choke on my organic coffee.

Although Kristof says that “there are plenty of reasons to be skeptical,” his solution is biofortification, including genetic engineering that will create such products as “golden rice” using genetic material from daffodils and corn. Kristof’s skepticism seems to come more from his impatience with the resistance he’s seen in Europe to “scientific tinkering with crops” than concerns about the possible catastrophic results from the “new seeds.”

I don’t really know the biology behind any of this well enough to counter the urgency in Kristof’s writing. He offers a bright picture in a bleak world if he and Monsanto are correct. He says, “These new seeds may finally help end the scourge of starvation in this century, on our watch.” Others feel that this same urgency may lead to irrevocable genetic damage, also done on our watch.

As I plant my sweet potato slips this spring I’ll have a vivid reminder of this issue. Do I blindly continue hostility towards genetic engineering only to “make it harder to save children from blindness and death?” It’s difficult to argue with Kristof’s heart. I just hope science doesn’t betray him and all of us. -Bill

Posted in nutrition, seeds, sweet potatoes, Uncategorized Also tagged , , , , , , |