Mother of An Angel Friendship Network Project

As with all important projects, this one began before it started. The work will continue after I have finished.

I am merely one person on the bridge.

Before I started photographing the families who belong to a Central Valley support group, I heard about the death of a young child that led to the Blossom Hill Pedestrian Bridge being built in San Jose. (I would later meet Xander’s mother.) In 2005, my wife and I were listening to the news. My father had died recently. My daughter was young and my wife might have been pregnant with my son. We changed the station hoping to erase the story, but we always remembered.

"Xander's Crossing," a 315-foot long prefabricated steel pedestrian bridge, was opened in San Jose on Friday, September 28, 2012. The bridge is named in honor of Alexander Arriaga, a 2-year-old boy who was died after being struck by a train in 2005 (bryan farley)

Another accident led to my involvement with the group. This time I knew the parent. Now I am friends with both parents whose children died. Having been a member of a suicide survivors support group, I knew that I could not simply turn off the newscast and make reality disappear, but I have been surprised that I could find comfort by helping other people. I truly care for these families.  They are my friends, my loyal friends. Perhaps this explains why the photo above is my favorite photo from 2012.  As I handed my camera to Xander’s older brother, I took a few photos of the media.

Impact Teen Drivers met on Monday, April 23, 2012 in Sacramento, California to honor families who have been affected by distracted driving. National and state leaders gathered at the West Side of the Capitol to strategies share personal stories. (bryan farley)

My position on the bridge also illustrates how I operate off the bridge. I am somewhere between the media and the support group. It is as if I have become an honorary member of the media. I listen to news reports about traffic accidents wondering if I will meet new families. It happened again with the Nuri family of Concord. Their family lost a father and daughter three weeks before a press conference at the state capitol. Despite their grief, they were incredibly sensitive. Are those in the media as sensitive as the subjects? Is the sensitivity necessary?

The Mothers of an Angel Friendship Network is a support group for mothers who have lost a children to death. This is the fourth summer I have documented the group. (Bryan Farley)

Through my coverage of The Mother of An Angel Friendship Network and the related state and national organizations, I have provided alternative methods for reporting. This is not a prescription. At best, I have demonstrated options… pointing to different directions often at the same time.

While I am occasionally complimented for my work, I am humbled by the families who have lost yet still give. I also have two children. They mean more to me than anything else I could accomplish or receive. I am unable to give parents their children. I am unable to end their suffering. I take pictures. I tell stories. I make some friends. It just so happens that this is more than most people do when confronted with the same situation so I receive more credit than necessary.

The earlier posts are still maintained on my TypePad blog

My growing Mother of an Angel photo gallery collection at

My Mother of an Angels posts at my new blog posts at


If for any reason I have suggested that there is a correct way for grieving the loss of a child, I apologize. While I believe that support groups are useful, I have my own personal experience with sudden loss. It can be isolating and lonely. It is my own personal experience that leads me to support those who are healing as a community. I honor their pursuit.


4 Responses to “Mother of An Angel Friendship Network Project”

  1. Bryan Farley says:

    The has been a great deal of “good news” with the project, whether one uses the term religiously or literally. Martha Tessmer has been a beacon for families all over the country. When I have seen her speak, students and adults approach her. Law enforcement officers and public officials are motivated to keep working. At the bridge ceremony, media and politicians were moved. Is there something changing or have I become too close to the story?

  2. Melissa says:

    I just mentioned to my husband 2 nights ago how I really want to take a photography class!
    How inspiring you are, helping other through your artwork. It’s too often we see bad news, sad stories, depressing situations…but there’s rarely a follow-up to the light that may come out at the end of the storm.
    Thanks for sharing this.

    • bryan farley says:

      You are welcome Melissa. Thank you for acknowledging the work and the power of photography to inspire.

      What do you want to learn in a photography course? Are you thinking about studying something technical? Topical? I would be more than willing to help.


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