TODAY

TODAY   |  April 08, 2014

Preemie photographer channels her love for babies

Photographer Jessica Strom has made a career out of capturing the first year of a baby’s life, but over the past three years she’s volunteered to go to local NICUs and take free portraits of babies who don’t get to go home right away.

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>> now to our special series "hope to it" and a skokansas city woman capturinining the first precious moments of life.

>> -we one photographer is making sure that the families don't miss a beat.

>> twins ava and olivia dickerson are anything but shy. these days their parents brandon and cassandra can barely keep up.

>> they are sugar and spice .

>> full of energy.

>> yeah, full of energy.

>> more than we have.

>> yes. they basically run this entire house.

>> reporter: it's a long way from where the couple was two years ago, when cassandra found herself in premature labor at just 25 weeks.

>> i called my physician and they told me that i should go to the nearest e.r.

>> ava and olivia came into the world at just 15 and 18 ounces.

>> if you could imagine a can of coke, they were about that size.

>> the twins would spend the next four months in the neonatal intensive care unit .

>> we were scared. we were crying. i didn't understand all the medical terminology that was being used.

>> it was during this trying time the dickersons met jessica strong. as a professional photographer, jessica has made a career out of capturing the first year of a baby's life. but it's what she's done over the past three years that makes her truly special.

>> i volunteer to go to our local nicus and take portraits of babies who don't get to go home right away.

>> jessica takes pictures of micropremies, between 22 and 33 weeks.

>> nicu babies, they smile the most, surprisingly enough. they just inherently know that they're here and they've got a big struggle, but they have so much to look forward to and they have this fighting spirit .

>> her photo sessions are free for families like the dickersons.

>> the photos are just -- sorry. sorry. the photos are priceless treasures to us now. it's the best gift that a nicu family can get.

>> today, it's 6-day-old twins brooklyn and olivia . capturing their first moments in the world.

>> there it is.

>> together, as sisters.

>> aww.

>> and the first portrait of the new family.

>> it's hard not to cry. it's very special.

>> but sweet and precious.

>> yeah. it's amazing.

>> by coming into the nicu , i'm able to give them something normal to look forward to, because every new parent wants to take pictures of their baby and they want to show off their baby.

>> it's a personal mission for jessica , who's had her own struggles with infertility.

>> my husband and i, we got naried about eight years ago and we started trying to become parents at that time, and we have not been successful.married about eig ht years ago and we started trying to become parents at that time, and we have not been successful. i'm able to channel all that love that i have for babies, i can relate to dealing with the grief of not being able to have a normal situation.

>> providing some much-needed comfort for the new moms and dads.

>> it's a really big healing process to have the pictures for the parents, because they remember how tiny they are and how amazing they're doing. and it turns that scariness around into hope.

>> and a lifelong gift for young families.

>> the photos to us, they mean everything. it just tells me that they are --

>> they're fighter.

>> they are. they're little warrior princesses.

>> priceless photo. we want to thank owner land park regional center for allowing us into the nicu . jessica isn't the only photographer who donates her time to the families. if you want to find out more, just head to today.com.

>> i want to update you on another hope to it story we shared a few weeks ago. the story of sarah cline, an 11-year-old girl who started aaron's ipad lending library to honor her 6-year-old cousin aaron, a cancer survivor . donations just poured in, including used ipads, a $10,000 check, and enough money to purchase 57 ipads for florida hospitals.

>> and you guys did that.

>> you're making a difference.

>> thank you.

>> it's amazing too going back to today's story what doctors and the medical community have been able to do. a baby that's born the size of a coke can, as the parents said, can now survive and live a healthy, happy life .

>> the mom called them her warrior princesses.

>> great story.