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Utah photographer donates her talents to children facing terminal illness

Published: Tuesday, Aug. 12 2014 7:00 a.m. MDT

Updated: Friday, Sept. 5 2014 6:29 p.m. MDT

Millie Flamm snuggles with her stuffed elephant at Primary Children's Hospital. Millie passed away from Leukemia in June 2013.

Jennifer Fauset, Fauset Photography

As a child, Jennifer Fauset loved to look at the picture of her 2-year-old self hanging in her grandfather’s office.

It gave her confidence, made her feel beautiful and eventually confirmed her decision to help other people feel beautiful by becoming a professional photographer whose company, Fauset Photography, is based in Salt Lake City.

While immortalizing wedding bliss has its perks, the most rewarding job for Fauset is photographing children facing terminal diseases — for free.

Fauset began her “Giving Back” project in 2010 when she was asked to take pictures of a boy undergoing chemotherapy.

She documented the heartbreaking process of shaving his hair and went on to take pictures of him declaring his wish with the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

After that, she was hooked on helping.

“I started telling people if they knew any child with a terminal illness that I was more than happy to photograph their family for free,” Fauset said. “They already have so much to worry about, and I think the last thing on their mind is to go and spend money on pictures, especially with children.”

Many children don’t want pictures of themselves without their hair, but Fauset said that when they see pictures of other children in similar situations, it encourages them.

And although the hospital may not seem like the ideal environment for a photo shoot, Fauset’s talent brings out the personality and interests of each child.

“I’m with the kids for such a short amount of time, but I feel like when you photograph someone you see deeper into them,” Fauset said. “I really try to capture the soul of the person, not just what they look like.”

One of Fauset’s favorite clients was Millie Flamm, a 7-year-old girl who died as a result of leukemia in June 2013.

Millie was diagnosed when she was 4 years old and underwent treatment for two and a half years.

The same day the Flamms celebrated her last dose of treatment in 2012, a bone marrow test result informed the family that Millie's leukemia had returned.

Although the Flamms thoroughly researched different forms of treatment, Millie's body stopped responding to everything.

One day, while Millie was preparing for her first bone marrow transplant, Fauset met her dad at the hospital.

"I hadn't heard of Jen, but she asked my husband Brady if he was Millie's dad, and when he said, 'Yes,' she said she'd love to take pictures of Millie," said Amanda Flamm, Millie's mom.

Fauset photographed Millie dressed in her Justin Bieber T-shirt, and Amanda Flamm couldn't think of anything more fitting for her little girl.

"We got these pictures back, and they were the most beautiful images I’d ever seen," Flamm said. "They captured Millie and her personality, and you can just feel who she is through those pictures."

When Flamm learned that Millie's body wouldn't accept any more treatment, she knew she wanted Fauset to take more pictures, but this time of their whole family.

Flamm didn't tell Fauset of the grim prognosis, but she said Fauset seemed to understand.

"I wanted her to capture a moment in time that I knew I was going to lose," Flamm said. "The photo shoot brought us so much closer together as we were able to play and let the dog on the bed and just be us, and Jen was a fly on the wall. She wasn’t even posing us or telling what to do. She just captured us."

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