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Madison Berkeley

Madison Berkeley, 3, was in a car accident that killed her father. She was critically injured. Six months later, through the work of Children’s Hospital, she had nearly recovered from those injuries. I photographed Madison for a story about her ordeal.

The shoot day was in early April on an unseasonably warm, sunny day. She lives in Rockland Massachusetts south of Boston. My 13 year old daughter Julia came along to assist and to work with Maddy. Her house was a modest white cape among other modest capes in a flat suburban neighborhood. On that day, the still dormant brown yard had construction materials and toys scattered about. More stuff spilled out of the garage to the right of the house.

We went to the front door and knocked. Maddy’s mother, Lisa, answered and welcomed us in. The house was in a state of chaos. Clearly renovations of different parts of the house were underway all at once and disjointed. A torn out ceiling, stairs stripped to the bare runners, the furnishings and possessions either piled up or scattered around the house. The stale smell of cigarette smoke hung in the house and reminded me of the house in which I grew up. Maddy’s two grandparents sat in the kitchen.

Jane closed the door. Behind it, there sat Madison at a small desk playing on a computer. She was dressed as a pink princess. She looked up looked up at me and then smiled at Julia. The two girls immediately started playing the computer game together while Jane and I struggled to find a location that would work for the photographs.

We got to the playroom and in it was enough stuff to fully furnish three rooms its size. Lisa and I worked to clear a section of it and we made a space for Maddy to pose for her portrait. Maddy came in, struggling a bit to walk but mostly recovered from her two broken legs. She sat on a small chair and the photo session began. She was a delight from beginning to end.

While I packed up, Madison led my daughter back to the computer and began proudly screening a slide show photographs of her at the hospital. . .two broken legs, a broken arm, neck brace from her broken neck. Cheerfully, she then asked me to view them. Her physical and emotional resilience were palpable.

Her mother had created the slide show. Clearly, she was overwhelmed but also it was obvious as well that she was completely tuned into Madison and committed to doing the best for her. We thanked them, said our “Good-byes” and headed back to Boston. Maddy was indeed a princess.

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