Chopped Liver - A Community for Live Organ Donors and Recipients

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Say "Liver!"

This photo of Joe and me is hands-down one of my favorite pictures ever -- it was taken at the Jingle Jangle fundraiser for the Greatest Gift Foundation on December 8, 2007. As you can see, we're happy!

But I would love to have a formal portrait of us taken someday, and therefore if I lived in the New York tri-state area, I would have immediately signed us up with Katja Heinemann, a Brooklyn-based photo journalist who is working on a series of portraits of donors and their recipients. If you are in the area and know of someone who might want to be a part of this terrific project, please reach out to Katja directly, at her email or via her Web site. Here's her message:

I am a Brooklyn-based photojournalist who specializes in public health issues, working regularly with a number of national and international magazines, such as People Magazine, Time, US News & World Report, Stern, Der Spiegel, as well as a host of women's magazines. Topics
I have covered in the past include pediatric and geriatric HIV/AIDS, breast cancer, down syndrome, ADHD and other behavioral disorders, autism, recovering anorexics and polytrauma in an Iraq war veteran, to name a few.

I am currently researching the production of a studio portrait
series that would show pairs of New York City tri-state area organ donors and their recipients.
The pairings would illustrate the various
relationships that living donors have to their recipients, from family ties over married couples to strangers who found each other ...
I am envisioning a series of posed portraits that are paired in diptychs, so I would want to photograph each person individually. Photographing donor and recipient separately would also make scheduling the portrait sessions easier - a pair could choose to come to a photo shoot together, or separately, if they prefer. I would work with each subject on figuring out how they want to pose, making this a collaborative
process. The variation from pair to pair would completely depend on the individuals: maybe a donor is proud to show off their scar, while a recipient would want to show only their face in the picture, or vice versa...... The project would show at least some of the donors' or recipients' scars, as this is after all about the human body.

In terms of logistics, I am planning to set aside a few studio days in a Manhattan location once I have sufficient number of potential participants lined up. I am hoping to produce this work within the next couple of months, and am flexible when it comes to scheduling appointments for the portrait sessions, which could happen in the evenings or on weekends. In some cases where people might have difficulties coming to the studio, I could potentially set up a backdrop at their house. The participants' surgeries do not necessarily have to have happened recently. In fact, I think it would add an interesting dimension to include the time aspect of how long some recipients have lived with the donated organ as part of the biographical information that will accompany the photographs.

For logistical reasons, l am looking for volunteers who will be able to be photographed in the NYC tri-state area, and as part of a pair of organ donor & recipient. As an exception, if someone wanted to participate even though their organ recipient or living donor may have passed away since the donation, I might be able to integrate those cases into the project as well.

I am planning on producing this series independently, and will distribute the final essay (which would combine the images with quotes
and brief stories and background information of the people involved) to
magazines or newspapers via my agency, Aurora Select. My motivation behind this series is the recurring theme of organ shortages that has cropped up in recent news articles. Creating compelling portraits would, I believe, call extra attention to this pressing issue. Participants would, of course, receive copies of their portraits.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

I've got butterflies...

Hi loyal readers -- I'm back after a long hiatus. And as we work to finalize the Greatest Gift Foundation Web site, I'll be ramping back up on this blog and trying to post three times a week. Once we launch, the blog will move there as a permanent feature of the site. Which gives me butterflies, both figuratively and literally! We hired an outstanding design and brand identity firm, Spyglass, to design our logo and brand, and after viewing hundreds of design sketches and ideas, we landed on one that surprised me but delighted me and everyone in the room and completely fits with our nonprofit's ethos. A simple butterfly, conveniently crafted out of a couple of lower case 'g's. Can't say for sure we're going to run with it as the final, but I suspect we will.

So I had to grin when I first saw the cover today of a new book published in part by UNOS: The Gift that Heals: Stories of hope, renewal, and transformation through organ and tissue donation. Nice little butterfly on the cover! I love the choice of the words "hope," "renewal," and "transformation," too -- all of those came up when we were talking through the butterfly logo concept with Spyglass, and all of them ring so true. I haven't read this book yet but it sounds inspiring. This is from UNOS' news release about the book, which came out in January 2008:

A few years ago, UNOS approached writer and donor dad Reg Green with the idea of writing a book about organ and tissue donation. The recently published book is titled, "The Gift That Heals: Stories of hope, renewal and transformation through organ and tissue donation." What makes this book unique is that it consists of 42 personal stories covering almost every facet of the donation/transplantation process -- the experiences of donor families, living donors, transplant candidates and recipients, donation and transplant professionals. "The goal of this book is to give readers a feel for the wide range of emotions and experiences that are inherent in this fascinating, life-saving procedure," said Walter Graham, executive director of UNOS, who conceived the idea for the book. "At the same time, we want readers to be inspired to support organ and tissue donation -- especially by declaring their intention to be donors themselves."
The book is available through publishing company
AuthorHouse. It is also available through The price is approximately $13. Electronic copies are available from AuthorHouse for $4.95.

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