Master’s graduate’s photos shine a light on children waiting for organ donations
Powerful and poignant photographs of children on the organ donation list taken by a master’s graduate from The Northern School of Art are being displayed across the UK to raise awareness of organ donation.
‘The Call’ is a campaign by Debbie Todd featuring images of children waiting for a transplant alongside those who are post-transplant having had the call for their gift of life.
Debbie, an award-winning photographer who has just graduated from the School’s MA Arts Practice course, started her awareness campaign over a year ago and has travelled around the country meeting families and capturing portraits of children on the organ donation list.
Each image features a red phone which is the same colour as the transplant phone and represents the call that the children are either waiting for or have received.
The photos are now being displayed on digital billboards as part of an initiative by Sunderland-based charity Red Sky Foundation which secured £100,000 from Smart Outdoor to display Debbie’s images in all major UK cities.
Durham County Council has also provided space for displays at two bus stops in the city and venues for further exhibitions of the campaign images are being explored.
Debbie said: “’The Call’ was my master’s research project. My photographic practice is socially engaged so aims to tell stories of marginalised people in the hope that it can change their outcome in life. Promoting discussion about organ donation is important as the subject is both taboo, and if I’m honest, one I had never even thought about until now.
“I’m so grateful to all of the families who have collaborated with me and showed such strength and openness in sharing their stories with me. Meeting all of the children who participated has really been an eye opener. Every child’s story and family situation is different, and the thing that most impacted me was the trauma for the family and wider community.
“All of the things that they have witnessed, the families they have met and the opportunities they have missed, as simple as sleeping in your own bed or walking on the beach, have made me realise how important it is to normalise discussion that could change a child’s future.”
Debbie added that she was very grateful to the Red Sky Foundation and Fujifilm who made her project a reality by providing funding for travel and printing costs.
The charity also staged an event at Sunderland’s Fire Station venue ahead of National Organ Donation Week 2023 where Debbie’s images for ‘The Call’ campaign were unveiled in front of an invited audience.
Sergio Petrucci, Founder, Red Sky Foundation, pictured above, said he was delighted to have supported Debbie adding: “We’re good at spotting an opportunity and have sponsored Debbie through this journey, we are also thrilled that Debbie has been nominated for a special award for ‘The Call’ and her astounding work.”
A spokesperson for Fujifilm added that they were “delighted to support awareness and discussion around this sensitive, but important, topic.”
Chloe Green, whose four-year-old daughter Evie has spent 200 days waiting for a new heart and is currently living in The Freeman Hospital in Newcastle, was one of the guest speakers at the event.
Debbie’s portrait of Evie features in ‘The Call’ and Chloe described the family’s journey and stressed the importance of discussions about organ donation with a backdrop of the campaign’s striking images behind her.
Debbie added: “I hope that my campaign will sow the seeds of thought and encourage the millions of people who see it to have the discussion about whether they would accept a donated organ to save their child? And, if so, would they give the gift of life to another child?”
As a new master’s graduate Debbie, whose awards include being a winner in the Bar-Tur Judges Choice 2022 and the Anjool Malde Award 2022, a finalist in the AOP Student Award 2022 and the BPA 2020 and 2021, and being shortlisted for the 2023 BIPP international print competition and Royal Photographic Society international photography exhibition, is now focusing on developing her creative practice with some exciting new projects.