Unflinching in their realism, yet transcendent in their intent, Hochberg's visual meditations on perinatal loss do more than chronicle a tragic death. They also affirm a life, conferring full personhood on both his tiny subjects and those who hold them in their arms and hearts. Hochberg uses his lens to preserve a compelling, and often touchingly beautiful moment in the human drama when birth and death coincide. The resulting image extends the memory of an abbreviated life, at the same time that it deepens the humanity of those who view it. As eloquently as any words, these unique photographs speak to the soul of love and loss, and facilitate a moving reconstruction of their meaning.”

Robert A. Neimeyer, PhD - University of Memphis,
Editor of Death Studies, and author of "Lessons of Loss"

In our culture, photographs build and pass on our family histories and legacies. When a baby dies, the natural order of this history and legacy is upset by an awful disruption of life assumptions.

Whether their baby dies early or late in pregnancy or shortly after birth, parents embark on a unique path of grief. They have strong emotional ties to their baby through many months of pregnancy or even through long held hopes and dreams, but have few tangible mementos that would affirm this child’s existence and significance. Parents often feel disoriented as they struggle to cope with their grief, integrate their loss and reconstruct their changed lives. Relatives, friends, and community members are also challenged with how to offer support, some unable to grasp the fullness of the experience.

Meeting these challenges, my documentary photographs are made in hospitals for grieving parents in the precious short time they have with their dying or stillborn baby. These images 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. Like any photographs their meaning evolves and changes over time.

While making meaningful photographs for grieving parents I strive to be fully available, mindful for each moment and attentively supportive as their experience unfolds. As parents engage and soak up this emotional time, that very flow carries me along. Rooms often become very small as they fill with family, yet instead of feeling confined there exists for me, through intense human connection, an expansiveness and sense of oneness, of spirit.

The Documentary form appropriately mirrors the unfolding experience in an effort to make tangible without intrusion. My photographs are made without electronic flash and are not staged or posed. Evidence of and connection to relationships between parents and
their baby, other family members and caregivers are what tend to be most important for parents when they view the photographs. Religious rituals and those innovated by parents are also elucidated. As an affirmation of a beloved baby these photographs finally and effectively contribute to a legacy, a family’s story, and to family history.

In witnessing birth and death of newborns so intertwined I am keenly aware of both the essence of life and it’s fragility. These experiences open my heart, and through the sadness I witness and feel with families, I am buoyed by what we share at a soulful, human place. All else falls away when I am with them. It is both a privilege and an honor to be invited into such a private, tragic time in their lives. I am grateful to these families for understanding the value of sharing their photographs and for graciously allowing me to present them in this manner.


All photographs copyright © Todd Hochberg