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The Gift of Life

This assignment ran from Apr 3 to Apr 24, 2017.

Before I started at Your Shot, I was a freelance photographer, and in between my paid assignments, I started and curated a non-profit storytelling project called The Waiting List. Over the past nine years, this passion project has evolved into a living library of stories featuring people connected by the one decision to say yes to the gift of life.

And that is how I met photographer Joni Schrantz, the guest curator for this assignment. After sharing her story with The Waiting List for over a year, her daughter Juniper finally received a heart transplant on September 17, 2014.

"I look forward to telling (my daughter) Juniper her story one day. A story about a tiny baby who entered the world not on a peaceful day, but rather in a storm, a storm so scary and turbulent that not many thought she'd live to see calmer days. I'll tell her about her parents who had no idea what the hell they were doing... but slowly learned to navigate their new reality and somehow managed to muster up every ounce of hope, strength and optimism they had within them to see the blue skies beyond the dark clouds.

She'll hear all about the army of supporters who cheered her on and showered her parents with so much love that they were constantly reminded of just what it was their young baby was fighting for. There are still chapters to be written, surely some with gray skies and a storm or two. But we will continue to seek the glimmers of light amidst the darkness and remind ourselves of how lucky we are to have a story to tell and to have chapters still unwritten."

For this Your Shot assignment, Joni and I invite you to think about what and who you are grateful for, and why life is special for you — your submission does NOT need to be connected to organ donation.

We encourage you to really, really think about “the gift of life.” Yes, your photo is important, but with this assignment, so is your caption. Your caption should help us understand why you are thankful for whatever you photographed. Maybe it is the love of your family and friends. Maybe it is those quiet moments in nature. Maybe it is your health. Maybe it is [fill in the blank]. Tell us a story with your photos and words. Make us care.

What do the words “Gift of Life” mean to you? We look forward to finding out.

Submission deadline will be April 24, 2017 at 12PM EST.

David Y. Lee
National Geographic Your Shot Associate Photo Editor

Joni Schrantz

Curated by:

David Lee
Producer, Nat Geo Your Shot

Joni Schrantz
Assignment Status
  • Open

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  • Closed

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  • Published

    Once the submission period is over, we'll review all contributions and select our favorite images to be included in the story. Learn more.
Published May 8, 2017.
Thank you for your contributions!

"Inspiring Experiences" assignment

Posted apr 2, 2018

In case you missed it, I am curating an assignment called “Inspiring Experiences” that I am curating with my mentor and former editor Jenn Poggi. Submission deadline is April 9, 2018.

David Y. Lee
Producer, Nat Geo Your Shot

Part 3 of 3 of Juniper's Heart story

Posted apr 21, 2017

To read part 3 of 3 of Joni’s story about her daughter Juniper’s wait for an organ transplant, click HERE. I encourage you all to take some time and read all three parts of her story. (Part 1 | Part 2). I believe after reading Joni’s experiences as a mother who was uncertain that her daughter would live, her Editor’s Notes will have even greater resonance to you.

If you live in America — even if you already have a heart on your driver’s license — I would love for you to take a few minutes and say yes to the gift of life by registering as an organ donor at Donate Life America by clicking HERE. If you are hesitant, remember this: because of an organ donor, Joni’s daughter Juniper is alive. This one decision was one mother’s gift of life to another mother.

I hope that each of you take a moment in your busy lives to pause and reflect on the gift of life you have been given. With the assignment closing in a few days, I want to say thanks to everyone who has shared their photos. There have been some very, very powerful stories. Thanks to those who have taken the extra time to write thoughtful and detailed captions, revealing why we should care further about the story you are sharing in your photos. I hope that each of you have been inspired as I have been when reading everyone else’s stories.

David Y. Lee
National Geographic Your Shot associate photo editor

Part 2 of 3 of Juniper's Heart story

Posted apr 14, 2017

The reason I invited Joni to curate our "The Gift of Life" assignment is because her daughter Juniper waited 194 days to receive a heart transplant, and her second chance on life. To read part 2 of 3 of Joni’s story about her daughter Juniper’s wait for an organ transplant, click HERE.

To read part 1 of Juniper's Heart story, click HERE.

Say yes to the gift of life and register as an organ donor at Donate Life America. Thank you.

Editor's Update 02

Posted apr 12, 2017

This has been a wonderful week of reading your thoughtful stories and experiences related to “The Gift of Life.” Many of you have put real time and energy into submitting images and captions that express meaningful ideas and moments. I commend those of you who have used this assignment to push yourselves into creating imagery that not only has strong photographic qualities, but that also makes the viewer care about the story behind the photograph.
David and I both believe that the caption is incredibly important for this assignment. For those of you who may be struggling to write captions, try looking at some of your personal favorite images in a new way. Simple scenes or objects can take on new meaning if the picture and caption somehow make your audience connect. See the mundane and the everyday as some of life’s calmer, understated moments. In your life, who has changed you or influenced the person you are today? Is there a way to signify that photographically? Tell me your stories. Show me your world and what has been the greatest gift in your life.

The variety of the imagery that has been submitted is impressive. Some of the lighter takes on this subject, such as kids laughing or an old man enjoying his friends, have stayed with me just as much as the ones with stories of greatness or deep sorrow. Life is filled with everything in between. I look forward to the next two weeks of submissions. Keep it up. 

Joni Schrantz

Part 1 of 3 of Juniper's Heart story

Posted apr 3, 2017

To see photos and read part 1 of 3 of Joni’s story about her daughter Juniper’s wait for the gift of life: a heart transplant, click here.

For those whose lives have been impacted by, and will be sharing stories related to organ transplant/organ donation, please consider using the following hashtags:

#becauseofanorgandonor | Because someone said yes to organ donation, what have you or your loved one been able to experience, witness, or achieve? Please include the organ received, and the exact date of the transplant.

#whenigotthecall | Share with us the story about when you (or your loved one) got THE CALL for the gift of life. What do you remember? Where were you? What happened? Please include the organ received, and the exact date of the transplant.

#iamalivingorgandonor | Did you decide to be a living organ donor? If yes, why and to whom? Share us the story about your decision to say yes to the gift of life. Please include the organ donated, to whom and your relationship, and the exact date of the transplant.

#organdonorfamily | Share with us your decision to donate your loved ones organs — why did you say yes to the gift of life?

David Lee

David Lee

Producer, Nat Geo Your Shot
Before joining the Your Shot team, David covered the White House for Time and Newsweek, and served as an official photographer for Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. He also started The Waiting List, a non-profit storytelling project humanizing the statistics of organ donation.

Joni Schrantz

Joni Schrantz

Joni Schrantz is a professional photographer and part-time pediatric nurse in Denver, Colorado. Her daughter Juniper received a heart transplant at just 7 month old. While waiting in the hospital by her daughter’s bedside, she documented Juniper's long wait for her life-saving organ transplant. She continues to photograph her daughter’s life and journey with organ donation in efforts of encouraging others to sign up to be donors.