By Josh Saunders
Photographers have created magical Christmas portraits for 200 sick children around the world.
The Heart Project saw over 100 volunteers visit hospitals to bring Christmas joy to families spending time in hospital over the festive period.
The children suffer from a variety of ailments and conditions, some life-threatening and some whom will not see another Christmas.
They were photographed with Santa in front of green screens in: Bristol and Devon, in the UK; Victoria, Sydney, Adelaide, Brisbane and Perth in Australia; Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch in New Zealand; and Ontario in Canada.
Photoshop editors and artists then worked to create incredible magical scenes showing the child snowy scenes, woodlands, Santa’s workshop and more.
Karen Alsop, 39, from Melbourne, Australia, who directed the Christmas Project, hopes it will bring a ‘little bit more love’ to families staying in hospitals this festive period.
She spent three months working on the project that united children, families and creative people all over the world.
Karen, Photographic Digital Artist, said: “Each of the children were placed in a scene to match their pose and what they were doing, then the magic was created in photoshop.
“Some of the children couldn’t get out of their beds, so we put them into the scene to give them the magic even if they couldn’t come to the greenscreen studio.
“We have everything from a night time theme with snow, we have kangaroos, a dinosaur, beautiful Christmas lounge scenes, and a range of environments.
“It all brings a bit of the magic of Christmas.
“There are some of the children who may not make it to next Christmas.
“In previous years, we have photographed some families who are no longer with us, it breaks our hearts.
“We have seen the highs and lows, with improvements in some children’s conditions.
“When we provide a printed portrait to the families for the first time, you see tears in their eyes.
“For some this is their first family portrait due to their child’s conditions and regularly being in and out of hospital.
“It makes it worth all of the time and effort seeing a difference and the joy it brings.”
This is the third year the project has been running for, starting off in a hospital in Australia, it grew last year and now is worldwide.
Karen said: “This year, some might say more than ever before, we’ve witnessed a world that could do with a little bit more love.
“Our mission has always been to put a smile on the face of families who are doing it tough at Christmas by making them escape reality – even for a day – thanks to the power of photography and Photoshop.”
One of her favourites scenes, created by Ben Shirk, shows a little girl in New Zealand, unable to leave her bed reaching out towards a Reindeer in a snowy scene.
Karen said: “The little girl didn’t want anything to do with Santa at that time and it was hard to get the shot.
“But in the end, we got her reaching out and then Ben created this masterpiece of her reaching out to a reindeer, it’s magnificent and a fine art piece her family can put on their wall.”
The campaign received donations from Nikon Australia , together with Smugmug, Eizo, Wacom, Kayell Australia, TetherTools, Epson and Seldex.
They continue to fundraise so that the project will be free for all volunteers and to give more families free prints.
Karen said: “We have had some support from some companies to cover our costs, but a lot of our volunteers are reaching into their own pockets to cover airfare, accommodation, food and more.
“Then also the prints and mats for families, all the funds go towards the costs that help us to be able to give these things to the families.”