Holiday pictures, with the kids decked out in their red and green finest, might be one of the first things to go by the wayside as parents attempt to care for a critically ill child.
But a trio of photographers brought the photo studio to the children Saturday at Mount Washington Pediatric Hospital, where nurses and moms primped and fussed over the children, hiding breathing tubes and the wires from heart monitors in order to get that perfect holiday portrait.
And, thanks to the generosity of a program called Help Portrait, the finished pictures will be free.
"It is a way for photographers to give to the community without getting anything in return," said Bonnie Schupp, who set up shop in one of the hospital's playrooms to take pictures of the teens and pre-teens in the hospital, some with family members.
She let one animated young man call the shots, and he struck a number of energetic poses for her camera. Then she let him choose which exposure he liked best.
"I asked him how he wanted the camera to see him. It is a way to give some control to somebody whose life really isn't in their control right now," she said.
She took pictures of a 4-year-old who didn't want to smile. "But he didn't need to smile. He had a beautiful face.
In another playroom, Marc Siegel and Judith Ringle were taking portraits of infants just weeks old, premature babies still learning to eat and breath on their own. Art Silverglate was there to take pictures of children too sick to leave their rooms.
They all belong to a group called Creative Exposure Baltimore, with more than 170 members, both pros and amateurs. Thanks to the dues in the group's coffers, all the pictures will be free. Nearly 40 of the 60 families with children in the hospital signed up for the photos.
"We're so excited, and we know our families are," said Shannon Chojnacki, who works with infants. "They asked how much it would cost and when we told them nothing, they couldn't believe it."
Tabetha McGinnes of Cambridge has come to the Mount Washington hospital every day for two months. Her daughter, Nicole Harding, had a pacemaker implanted immediately after birth.
She and therapist Caroline Langnall carefully tucked the breathing tube and monitor wires underneath the holiday dress Nicole's grandfather had bought for her. "This is my day off," said Langnall, her voice full of, well, holiday excitement. "But I had to be here."
Siegel, who was down on his knees trying to take the perfect portrait of the babies, was worried that the illnesses of the children would be upsetting. "As a parent, it gets to you," he said during a break in shooting. "But you just suck it up and do it."
Roshall Veney-Jackson of Windsor Mill came with daughters Shalia, 18, and Shanette, 15, to be photographed with son Kendrick, 11, who has been in the hospital for a week, for the second time this year.
"I'm going to hang it up on my wall and get a copy for my mom," Veney-Jackson said. "You know, I don't have a picture of him since he was a year old."