Madie Wilbanks, 18: Student photojournalist had big dream

Madie Wilbanks was an ambitious photographer and writer who had a different way of doing things than everyone else.

“We would all laugh at a painting she did of rooftops because the angles were different” than the photo she was painting from. “But she said, ‘I just see them that way’,” said Judie Jacobs, her art teacher.

“She really loved life and did it in her own way, no one told her how to do it,” added her father, Marlan Wilbanks.

Madie, a senior at Holy Innocents’ Episcopal School, was recently accepted to New York University where she planned to pursue her dream of becoming a photojournalist. She also studied for a semester at the Oxbow School in Napa, Calif.

Last summer she traveled to South America as the youngest person working at CNN Chile. Her father said that experience reinforced her desire to expand her dreams to include other cultures around the world.

She took life head-on and traveled to Spain, France, Germany and Mexico. She planned to study at NYU for a year, travel to Madrid to study a year and finish at NYU.

“Madie was a free spirit, she really danced to her own music, and worked outside the box,” added Jacobs.

“In all my years at HIES I have never taught a more mature artist. She was beyond her years in her involvement and how she expressed herself through her work,” said Alice Thompson, Madie’s photography teacher.

Her school was notified Monday that she had been awarded the state-level Gold Key award for her photograph titled “Virginia” at the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards, from the Alliance for Young Artists and Writers.

“She was brilliantly creative and had a maturity in her art that I have never seen before at our school,” said Thompson.

Madie’s charm, beauty, courage and grace in times of adversity were traits she exhibited every day as she battled Type 1 diabetes since the age of five. “She wanted to live a normal, incredible full life,” said her father.

Madie Wilbanks of Atlanta died Sunday of complications to Type 1 diabetes. She was 18. A memorial service will be held 1 p.m. Wednesday at Northside United Methodist Church, 2799 Northside Drive, N.W., Atlanta.

“Madie was fearless about life, I’m sure she’s fearless about death,” said her father. “She was the first thing I thought of when I woke up and the last thing I was thankful for each night in my prayers.”

Madie is survived by her parents, Joan Lyman, Marlan and his wife Diane Wilbanks; sister, Lauren Seiple; brother, Jackson Lyman; and grandparents, Charles Oharro and Marilyn and Aubrey Motz.