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Images of a Kinder World


The images are emotional. Thoughtful. And powerful.

Rhonda, a spunky 5-year-old survivor, took her camera into a social worker's office, focused on a dollhouse and snapped a photo of two dolls on a sofa.

Jason, 10, a tender, creative youngster, explored a counseling center's playground on a rainy day. His world was filled with shapes and reflections.

Maritza, a sickly 10-year-old who has been in and out of hospitals the last year, zoomed in on two teddy bears, side by side on her hospital bed.

Deanne Shartin has been taking children--many of whom are physically, mentally and sexually abused, abandoned, neglected or ill--outside of their troubled worlds and into wondrous others through photography.

"A lot of these kids have been very closed-in in their young lives," Shartin says. "It's been hard for them to feel safe and vulnerable enough to share the soft things inside of them."

The camera is helping.

Shartin, a professional photographer and UCLA psychology student, runs Hot Shots, a 1-year-old program overseen by Free Arts for Abused Children, a nonprofit organization that works with 1,200 abused children per week at various counseling centers and hospitals throughout Southern California.

Shartin teaches the kids how to use a camera and take photographs of the people they encounter and the places where they receive treatment.

"When they see their pictures, their eyes widen, their faces light up," she says. "Their self-esteem is restored. They feel good. They see their view of the world. They see hope."

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