Capturing Happy Moments: Battle Building Photo Display

July 30, 2014 by

Father and son Mark and Charlie Davison enjoy a day at the park. Photo by medical student Kevin Zhan.

Kevin Zhan is a fourth-year medical student at UVA. Over the past month, Kevin photographed four UVA Pediatrics patients and their families for an exhibit that was displayed at the grand opening of the Battle Building. Here is Kevin’s story:

“Dr. Plews-Olgan works with children with medical complexities. He approached me after discovering fashion photographer Rich Guidotti’s work highlighting the beauty in children with congenital medical conditions. He thought it’d be great if we could reproduce something similar for the opening of the Battle Building. I’m a wedding photographer outside of school and thought this was a fantastic idea. I love working with children as well, part of the reason I’m pursuing a career in Otolaryngology.

These children require around-the-clock care and frequent hospital visits. But that did not mask the palpable joy that they brought to their families. They’re kids, with the same wants and needs as any other. I took pictures of them competing on the Wii, interacting with siblings, playing at the park, enjoying themselves. I photographed their joys and glimpsed their upsets. Our goal was to celebrate their humanity and normalcy. These children and their families made that a bit too easy.

What stood out most were the family reactions at the gallery, seeing the photos for the first time. The parents expressed their gratitude. For the children, you could feel their confusion and awe turn into big smiles. Charlie, the first child I worked with, couldn’t contain his giggling. That part of the exhibit was most heartwarming and rewarding for me.

I also noticed how local photography draws people in. Some passerby’s mentioned that they recognized the kids or the scenery. ‘It’s Annie! I know her from my school!’ one girl exclaimed. The community feel is touching—more real—something you don’t get from artwork not specifically tied to the city. Moreover, the pictures celebrate what UVA has accomplished, the life-saving care we continue to provide. What better way than this to brag about our own patients and our efforts?

My hope is that this be a more permanent exhibit and an ongoing project. The positive feedback we have received so far is tremendous. The effort and cost input is minimal compared to the results. I want to thank Dr. Plews-Olgan, his family, and Dr. Rebecca Scharf for their efforts on this project. I cannot thank enough the individual families for allowing me to spend time with them. This experience has truly been wonderful.”

Kevin’s work made a lasting impression on many others that worked on this project and experienced the photographs at the grand opening.

“My wife and I were extremely impressed by Kevin Zhan’s photographs displayed in the new Battle Building. The images of our patients in their daily lives, sometimes struggling and often triumphing, are inspiring to us all. All of us who work in the UVa Children’s Hospital are privileged to be entrusted with the care of infants and children, who depend on us as they do on their parents and families. These images are a reminder of the human side of complex medical care, and Kevin has clearly demonstrated how he is tuned into the ‘inner child,’” said Dr. Robert Chevalier.

“When we were asked if Charlie would like to be photographed for a display at the Battle building, we did not hesitate. We support the hospital and all the physicians that help with Charlie’s care. Kevin met us in one of the UVA gardens to photograph our family. The photos captured Charlie with all of his equipment (trach/tubing and ventilator) being an average kid. Yes, he has challenges just like everyone else, however he just has a little extra equipment having to tag along with him. We felt the photos truly seized the moments of our family just enjoying a lovely afternoon in a garden. Charlie has a wonderful personality and engages people’s attention with his smiles. We hope the Battle building displays children’s photos around the hallways for everyone to see, appreciate, and learn that disabilities do not to define the child but the child’s personality defines them. We appreciated the opportunity to work with Kevin and the team at UVA to be a part of the exhibit,” said Erin and Mark Davison, Charlie’s parents.

Thank you, Kevin!

View Kevin’s collection of photos.

Filed Under: Features