Seeger Chapel steeple against an orange sunset

Photography exhibit tells stories of China’s orphans

Amber Neill Parker

By Brooke Gomez

MILLIGAN COLLEGE, Tenn. (Oct. 6, 2014) — A young Chinese girl named Julia shares a simple piece of fruit with a man, who smiles back. While he is not her biological father, he has chosen to fill that role for her as a foster parent.

This simple yet powerful image called “The Family Tree” is one of many visual stories about China’s orphans in Amber Neill Parker’s upcoming exhibit, “A New Day,” opening at Milligan College’s Homecoming on Saturday, Oct. 25, at the Milligan Art Gallery located in Derthick Hall.

Parker’s photographs tell the stories of orphans with their foster families in and near Beijing, China, and their journey of hope.

“This work shows how the love of a family can shape a child’s life, giving these orphans hope for a brighter future,” said Parker, a Milligan alumna.

“The Family Tree”

Parker’s project began in 2009 when she and her husband, Chadwick, also a Milligan alum, moved to Beijing to work with the New Day organization. The non-profit provides help and surgeries for orphans with severe medical conditions such as heart issues, spina bifida and cleft lip, so they may become eligible for adoption into a “forever family,” as Parker describes it.

“I want my viewers to walk away from the exhibit feeling they can make a difference in orphans’ lives,” said Parker, who is originally from St. Louis, Missouri, and now lives in Chicago. “I want them to see how happy these children are to be a part of a family.”

Every child featured in the exhibit has been adopted and now lives in the United States.

Parker fell in love with both her husband and teaching photography while at Milligan. She majored in photography and cites Alice Anthony, associate professor of art, as a mentor.

“I was encouraged to get my master’s degree in fine arts so I could teach and encourage students one day,” said Parker, whose photography is characterized by a documentary style with a focus on different cultures.

She went on to earn a Master of Fine Arts degree at the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD). Her work has been showcased across the United States and in China.

There will be a reception at 11 a.m. on opening day, Oct. 25, and the exhibit will remain open until Thursday, Nov. 20. Parker will donate 50 percent of the proceeds from any images sold to New Day Foster Home in an effort to continue helping orphans find homes.

For a complete schedule of Milligan’s Homecoming events, visit

CategoriesArticles, Arts, Community
Posted by on October 6, 2014.