Young Cancer Patients Develop Creative Expression through Photography

They gather with a shared history and a depth beyond their years. Pediatric cancer patients treated at the Joseph M. Sanzari Children’s Hospital at Hackensack University Medical Center meet once a week in a sun-filled art studio to express their unique perspective through the lens of a camera.

The HackensackUMC Foundation secured a grant from the LIVESTRONG Foundation to fund the Pablove Foundation’s Pablove Shutterbugs Photography Program, a workshop series that teaches young people living with cancer to find their creative voice through the art of photography.

Ten patients, ranging in age from eight to 22 years old, registered for the weekly two-hour workshops during the course of a five week program, which began this fall in a donated space at Bergen Community College. A second session will be offered in the spring. Programs culminate with a gallery exhibition of the art work that is created during these workshops.

“Whenever we create art, it bears our signature and reflects who we are and how we see the world,” said Ellen Goldring, section chief of Child Life/Creative Arts Therapy at the Joseph M. Sanzari Children’s Hospital at HackensackUMC. “Having cancer changes your perspective. For some, that can be isolating because they see things with a certain depth that their peers may not have experienced.”

Goldring says she expects natural bonds to form by virtue of the participants’ shared experience. Some are in active treatment. Some have been off treatment for quite some time.

Working with one photography teacher and three teaching assistants, each participant is given a digital camera to keep as their own, along with instruction on photography techniques, lighting, and portraiture. The young artists also have the opportunity to work outdoors, capturing the foliage on the Bergen Community College campus in the fall and spring. “This class has improved my photography skills and helped me make more friends,” said Erin Barone, 19, of Wallington. “My photos show how I see the world from a different view.”

The Los Angeles-based Pablove Foundation is dedicated to investing in underfunded, cutting-edge pediatric cancer research, inspiring cancer families through education, and improving the lives of children with cancer through the arts. The Pablove Shutterbugs program has been implemented in cities across the country.

The LIVESTRONG Foundation looks at the experiences of the cancer community, finds problems and develops solutions. It finds new ways to raise awareness, increase outreach, and facilitate co