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  • Writer's pictureRobert Nowakowski

Life Images Spring 2021

This past weekend marks my second time volunteering for the Life Images project at Washtenaw Community College. The project is made possible through a partnership between Washtenaw Community College's Digital Media Arts Department and the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center.

In 2013, the Life Images project was born as a way to provide cancer center patients with professional-quality portraits — some with their families, some with pets, others with cherished keepsakes.

Photography instructor Don Werthmann has a saying he likes to share with his students: “A portrait isn’t something you take. It’s something you give.” The truthfulness behind that saying is never more evident than when students work in the Life Images program. CJ South was one of the original students in the program, back when the hospital staff and photography program transformed the corner of a small conference room into a photo studio.

“The shooting was always intense due to the fragile nature of the situation. I’ve never felt more nervous about performing well,” South says. “The gratitude of the families was contagious and I always left feeling 100-percent more grateful for my life experiences. It was the first time I realized how photography could be used to really help others.”

Today, patient portraits take place in the state-of-the-art studio space at WCC.

In observance with COVID restrictions, we moved our studio equipment outside to create a safe place to work with the patients and their families.

For more information on the Life Images project, visit

The Life Images Spring 2021 Team

Joel (photographer), Brenda (photographer), Barbara (post production), Alex (floater),

Rob Nowakowski (photographer and documenting the day), Stephanie (post production),

Don (photo bay guru), Jen (post production Yoda)

Devyn (greeter), Sandy (greeter)

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