Featured Image: Kylie Morrissy
Over the past five years The Heart Project, led by photographer Karen Alsop, has coordinated Christmas Wish: a visit from Santa and a volunteer team to sick children in hospitals in order to create an unforgettable memory and a photo art portrait to accompany it. Through the creativity and skill of a team of Photoshop artist collaborators, Christmas Wish magically transports these children into their own Christmas Wonderland.
Christmas Wish emerged from Alsop’s desire to bring a little bit of joy to families who were forced to celebrate Christmas in hospitals. The inaugural Christmas Wish began at Monash Children’s Hospital in 2016, and then grew over the following years to benefit hundreds of families in locations all over the world, thanks to an amazing international group of volunteer photographers and artists. The delightful images created, and the experience of creating them, provides a moment of respite in an otherwise difficult situation for many parents and their children.
In 2020, Covid-19 has made the project more difficult for The Heart Project team, but they are determined to continue in at least four locations, including Brisbane, Perth, Melbourne and New York, with thanks to support from Nikon and Kayell. Technological wizardry can allow not only for Santa to talk to the children over video, but also for images to be captured remotely from an adjoining room so that the required distancing can take place; Santa is apologetic, of course, but he’s currently renovating his sleigh so he can’t be there in person. The experience will be nonetheless special, with Santa and his elves working behind the scenes to magically add the photographed child into the image.
While Christmas Wish won’t be as widespread this year, Alsop says it’s one of the most important years for the project, given how tough the year has been with the added isolation and social distancing for kids with medical conditions. And although the teams and locations have been narrowed down, she hopes for the project to be back bigger and better than ever in 2021, with a return to mentoring for volunteers who want to setup their own local Christmas Wish and the hopeful return of more international sites. For now, the project will continue to give hope to many children and momentarily free them, if only in a creative sense, from the confines of their hospital ward and their illness.
Alsop will be running an online workshop with the The Nikon School to raise money for Christmas Wish on December 17th – if you’d like to support the cause and also learn a bit of creative compositing, click here for further information. Below are some highlights from last year’s Christmas Wish.