Missing Children Photos

MarikaAgedFor the past two weeks, all over the media, an image of a little girl who was found dead in a trash bag along the shore of Boston Harbor has yanked at the hearts of more than 51 million viewers. Having lost my own daughter four years ago, I was mesmerized by the picture. Someone’s beautiful daughter, her riveting eyes. Thrown away. How could this happen?

The computer-generated image was produced by Christi Andrews at the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Using autopsy reports, morgue photos, and stock images of facial features, Andrews constructed a digital composite that should come close to what the toddler looked like in life. Andrews selected a similar face shape, added eyes that matched the toddler’s in size and color, and filled in the features with stock photos. She likened the process to building a Mr. Potato Head.

Forensic artists like Andrews often include age progressions in their composites, modifying images to reflect the effects of aging, to show likely current appearances of long gone missing children. They use the same Adobe Photoshop program I use. When I investigated further, to learn how Andrews recreated the face of ‘Baby Doe,’ the child found near Boston, I made a discovery: many bereaved parents find age progression on photos of their deceased children to be healing. They use services such as Phojoe Photo in order to see what their children might have looked like as adults.

With all the photo manipulations I’ve done on my daughter’s image, aging her face had never occurred to me. What would Marika, who died before turning twenty-one, look like at my age, I  wondered?

On one half of Marika’s face I deepened her natural lines and then added from my own stockpile of wrinkles, sags, and age spots.

So now I have something else to stare at.


What images do you find comforting?


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6 thoughts on “Missing Children Photos

  1. SusanB

    That’s a hard one Robin. Not weird. It’s just wrong Marika never got to grow old.

    1. Robin Botie Post author

      Yep. It’s interesting how many mothers who lost kids could understand this curiosity about a child’s face aging, and how those not in the club, could not and were actually upset by the whole thing. But yes, it’s something one should never have to wonder about.

  2. Elaine Mansfield

    Marika’s beautiful on both sides of this image, Robin. Blow my mind! I hadn’t thought of looking at anyone in age progression. I entertained it for a minute, but I need to accept the world where Vic and my dad and quite a few others didn’t age while I did. I’m glad it was comforting to you.

    1. Robin Botie Post author

      Many thanks once more, Elaine. Yes, it’s time to do more accepting and facing reality. But I’m glad I tried it. It was more fascination than comfort anyway. Can you imagine taking the images of everyone we love who died and making age progressions on them all? What a waste of time. Back to the real world. Cheers!

  3. Carole LaTour

    I couldn’t do that. Somehow I know it would haunt me. I can look at his father to see how he would age. They look so much alike.

    1. Robin Botie Post author

      In a bereaved parents group I attend, there was a lot of excitement about my age progression. One of the mothers was even considering paying the $200 to try the service although I asked her to let me try doing it for her for free first. Most of my friends and family, who have not experienced such a close loss, were very disturbed by the idea. It was haunting to me, Carole. And I would never have thought of it if I hadn’t stumbled on the idea while looking into how photo composites of the lost Baby Doe were done. It’s not something I would recommend to everyone. But I feel like I know and love that aged face of my daughter’s. Weird as it is. Thanks for responding.


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