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Pictures tell stories of patients at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta

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ATLANTA -

There is something about a photograph that can stop us in our tracks. It captures a moment -- and a feeling -- in a way nothing else can.

At Children's Healthcare of Atlanta, patients are learning how to use a camera to share their stories.
        
In a recent class that FOX 5's Beth Galvin sat in on, the patients entered the conference room quiet and nervous. Some of them had physical challenges that made it hard to work the camera.

But then, something kind of magical happened.

They took over, both in front of and behind the lens and they started telling their stories with pictures.
     
Professional photographer Corinne Adams of Atlanta Celebrates Photography has been going to Children's once a month for a year now. She teaches teenage patients how to tell their stories through the lens of a camera.

"I think photography gives them a voice," Adams said. "And there's a magic in a photograph."

Ashley McCleskey started the class a little shy.

"I was kind of nervous because I didn't know what to expect," she said.

But in front of the camera, you don't see the autoimmune disease that has made her life so hard. You see grace, and strength, and what makes Ashley, Ashley.

Jon Benjamin is 18, has cerebral palsy and paints like nobody's business.  He's been there the longest – 40 days straight.  But his portrait captures something almost magical – the way he wants to be: Jon, surrounded by a rainbow of color.

"I like the colors because I think it makes other people smile when they look at it," he said.

This program was child life specialist Caroline Snodgrass' idea to give her young patients a chance to call the shots.

"When they're in the hospital, they can't really be in control of too many things, so it's great for them to gain some control back in their lives," Snodgrass said. "And it's been great to see, after the kids see pictures of themselves, they're like, ‘Oh, my gosh. I am beautiful.  And I am a big deal.'"

The patient photos were recently featured in a show at the High Museum in Midtown Atlanta.

"We had kids driving in from Alabama.  All in new outfits and one girl got a new wig for the show.  It was just fabulous,'" Snodgrass said.

Corinne said that she leaves the hospital reminded about the power of a picture.

"There are really no words for it except to say that I am lifted up. I am just lifted up," she said.

This program has taken on a life of its own. Caroline Snodgrass says kids all over the hospital are asking to take pictures and pose for pictures.

They're hoping this class will inspire other artists to volunteer.

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