Todd Hochberg – Photographer
I began my work with grieving families in 1997. I was working as a manager of photography services for a large healthcare provider in Chicago. As a collector of antique photography, I had been exposed to post mortem memorial photographs of the Victorian era. These images resonated with me, particularly those of babies and children. I contacted a chaplain I knew in the hospital who worked with families whose babies died. I offered to help in some way. I was looking to find more meaning in my work through connection with others. I felt I could be present with others in pain.
I am contacted by nurses, social workers, physicians, midwives, doulas and others when they know of a family who might be interested in my services. This initial contact comes at the time of a preterm diagnosis — a stillbirth or impending loss in the NICU. Each family’s needs are unique and I don’t presume photographs to be helpful to everyone. If parents are interested, I arrive when needed, typically around the time of death. I photograph from 30 minutes to 3 hours. I photograph in a documentary style – without posing or staging, and do not use flash. I attempt to capture meaningful images that reflect their experience and the loving, caring relationships that I witness in the midst of sorrow. When we meet 4-5 weeks later, parents receive 50-75 images held gently in an album. I provide this service at no charge to the parents.
Parents have strong emotional ties to their baby during the many months of pregnancy. They also have long-held hopes and dreams. When parents lose a child, the one thing they don’t have is tangible mementos that affirm this child’s existence and significance. They often feel disoriented as they struggle to cope with their grief, integrate their loss, and reconstruct their lives. Relatives, friends, and community members are also challenged with how to offer support. It’s difficult for them to grasp the fullness of the experience. As parents move through grief, they may struggle with holding on to memories and feelings about this short time with their baby. My documentary photographs serve as a gentle link to memories and feelings; offer an illustrated narrative for themselves and those they choose to share it with; play a significant role in helping parents grieve and heal; and help parents to find the treasure in their adversity.
My work is funded entirely through philanthropy. Visit my web site for more information.
Todd Hochberg Photography