A Photo Assignment Turns Personal
For photographer Ramin Rahimian, a recent assignment to document a reading program for infants echoed his own personal mission as a parent to a 2-year-old.
Photographer Ramin Rahimian reads to his 2-year-old Daughter, Emerson, at his home in San Francisco. –Photo by Peter Breyfogle
I was assigned by Education Week to photograph the launch of the Too Small to Fail campaign, which promotes reading, talking, and singing to children under the age of 3 to boost their brain development. It does so at hospitals, from birth to the age of 3, by having pediatricians inform parents of the importance of exposing their children to as many words as possible.
I was very interested in this program and its mission, and not just as a photographer. As much as I can, I have read to and talked to (for everyone’s sake, I’ve kept the singing to a minimum) my two-year-old daughter, Emerson, since she was born. I have been aware of the importance of doing so for the benefit of cognitive and brain development. It was not until recently that I started hearing the widely cited statistic that children from low-income families hear about 30 million fewer words than their higher-income peers by the age of 3. That is such a wide disparity – one that I can very well see could lead to a disadvantage in childhood development.
Mayah Miller, 3, right, spells out the words on a sign as she waits with her half-sister, Atalina Carter, to see a doctor for a wellness checkup at the UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital Claremont Clinic in Oakland, Calif. –Ramin Rahimian for Education Week
I arrived at Children’s Hospital Claremont Clinic in Oakland thinking that the shoot would be something akin to a seminar for parents and their children. It was not sounding too promising for photographs. When I arrived, the public relations woman told me I would be sitting in on wellness checkups with some families instead. I waited in the lobby in order to find a family willing to be photographed. Luckily for me, the first family I met agreed to have me there with them. Malmira Miller had brought her two daughters Isabelle, 11 months, and Mayah, 3, in for their checkups. In the lobby, I was pleased to see Mayah pointing to words on the wall and trying to spell them out. I also met Adrianna Brown and her adorable two boys Cardi’air, 3 months old, and Caiseon, 22 months old.
Palmira Miller holds her daughter, Isabelle, at a wellness checkup with nurse Tesfa Gemechu at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital in Oakland, Calif. They are accompanied by Isabelle’s half-sister, Mayah, 3. —Ramin Rahimian for Education Week
In these specific sessions, the doctors did not spend much time explaining why it is so crucial to read, talk, and sing as much as possible, or the science behind it all. Regardless, the parents seemed to me to be very interested in the message and ready to take part with their own families.
Palmira Miller and her two daughters Isabelle, 11 months, and Mayah, 3, received informational material for the Too Small To Fail’s Talking Is Teaching campaign during a wellness checkup at the UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital Claremont Clinic in Oakland, Calif. –Ramin Rahimian for Education Week
by Ramin Rahimian