Renowned photographer Jared Platt shoots weddings, primarily, alongside some children’s photography and senior portraits. He captures brief snippets in time, usually all in a day, before moving on to the next client; the next moment. But when a child in his church got sick with a rare form of bone cancer, Jared made the boy’s family an offer: he would follow their son for a year, documenting his life, so that — for better or for worse — they would have a record of his struggle, and memories of the good times as well.
We reached out to Jared to find out more about his year-long photography project. Here’s what he had to share:
How he began his project
The Curtis’s had only been in town about six months when their five-year-old son Trajen was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, a serious form of bone cancer. Jared’s wife would help out however she could, often having the family’s other children come over to play with the Platt children while Trajen’s parents took him to the hospital. But Jared himself wasn’t sure what else he could do to help.
“A lot of the time as a photographer, we have a problem. I’m not a doctor, so I can’t help there. I’m not a lawyer, and I’m not rich… I mean there’s so many things that I’m not, and you wonder how can I as a photographer — not even as a photographer, but just as a normal guy with no real amazing skills — how can I help in a situation that’s life and death?”
So he asked himself what he would want in that situation — something he himself could provide, and decided to offer his services as a photographer to the family. He called up Trajen’s father and said, “If I were a father of the child like this, I’d probably want something to remember all this, and he agreed and he said, ‘That would be a very beautiful thing. We would be grateful for that.’”
Documenting Trajen’s year-long battle
For Jared, the simple offer became a major part of his life, partly because he had to be ready at any time for a Trajen-related photo opp.
Jared shared, “I had a small kit ready to go any time a call came in that said ‘Trajan’s going through a rough stage,’ or ‘He’s having a good day; he gets to play,’ and I would immediately run to wherever he was. I felt like a firefighter to some degree, ready to just slide down the pole and take off.”
He was there when Trajen’s family and friends got together to shave their heads to help Trajen feel better about losing his own.
He was there for the surgery that grafted part of Trajan’s tibia onto the arm that had been eaten away by cancer, and left him struggling to get around on his weakened leg.
He was even called in on the good days when Trajen was well enough to play — a rare occurrence. And whenever he could, Jared brought his children along with him, to give Trajen other children to play with, even if when the little boy was in the hospital.
He was there for one of Trajen’s last surgeries, when doctors put him under to find out if the cancer was gone. It was one of the few times he saw Trajen truly distraught. “I think it must have been his family said, oh, we’re going to find out today if we got rid of the cancer. So maybe to him, in his mind, he thought, if I don’t have the cancer, I live, but if I do, I die. I don’t think he made the distinction of, if I didn’t beat the cancer, then we keep fighting it. In his mind, he thought, if I didn’t beat the cancer, then I’m not going to wake up.”
And he was there when woke up from that surgery to find out that he was in remission. He followed Trajen’s recovery, as well, as the boy got back to the business of being an ordinary kid.
Throughout the year with Trajen, Jared found the little boy to be joyful and resilient in a way adults almost never are. “Even if today is fine, we adults end up worrying about tomorrow and stewing over yesterday, and so we never really experience that joy of today. But [with Trajen] — it didn’t matter what happened yesterday, and it didn’t matter what was going to come tomorrow. He just lived in the moment.”
In the end, after taking thousands and thousands of photographs of Trajen and his family, Jared distilled his images into a 350-page book and then edited his images down further into the video above, creating the documentation he’d promised Trajen’s family when he first offered to help.
What Jared took away from the project
Though it took time and energy to give Trajen’s family that documentation, Jared never for a moment regretted his offer.
For one thing, the Curtis family and Jared’s own family are now very close. Their children play together, and the families often spend time together, even now that Jared’s project has ended.
And just as importantly, Jared figured out how he could use his photography to help others. He shared, “Because of our skillset, [photographers] have a lot we can offer people, and it’s something that no one else can do for them, but we have the ability to do it.”
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