Meeting Baby David: Elinor Carucci’s Powerful Portraits of Preemies

Elinor Carucci—Institute for TIME
Elinor Carucci—Institute for TIME
David's leg is seen sticking out from a blanket at the Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin.

For this week’s issue of TIME, photographer Elinor Carucci took these powerful, intimate portraits of David, an infant born at 28 weeks at the Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin. Carucci spent the better part of two days with David and his parents in the hospital; here she tells TIME about the personal connection she developed with the child and parents, and talks about her approach to photography. 


I approach assignments like this in the same way I approach my own work. The mom in me and the photographer in me are both there. When I saw David for the first time, I had to take a few breaths because he is so, so tiny. He was in the incubator and he was so fragile. I had to first let the mom in me calm down a little, and then let the photographer take her pictures. Altogether, I had two days with David and his family.

Taking photographs can be a very mysterious process, but in a story like this the fact that I am a mother is important. I had twins who weren’t born prematurely, but that was a very big fear. A lot of my friends have twins and their kids were born prematurely, so I have some familiarity with the subject.

On location, the incubator itself presented a problem of access — it’s large and cumbersome. It got in the way, but naturally, it became part of the shoot. It’s quite amazing to see it and to think of what it replaces. It shows you how amazing our bodies are.

The family dynamic between David and his parents was beautiful. David’s apparent fragility meant that I kept myself very quiet and was careful not to disturb him. His parents would hold him with such carefulness, and with such love. But of course this was all infused with hope and worry.

It’s a very emotional thing, this kind of work. This is why I haven’t done fashion or beauty photography – it’s really about connecting with the person. Some photographers create a vision. I connect to the situation — to the person, to who they are. For me the emotional connection is how I approach photography. All I want is for them to just be who they are.


Elinor Carucci is an Israeli-American photographer based in New York. Her third monograph, Mother, is available through Prestel. LightBox previously profiled Carucci’s her work here. Work from Mother will show at Edwynn Houk gallery in New York City until May 3, 2014. 


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