a morning of smiles // #autismspeaks

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patti & i grew up across the street from each other. our folks were the closest of friends. her daddy was a lieutenant colonel in the army & i always loved visiting their home which was full of beautiful treasures from all over the world. a special family to me for sure.

last spring i met patti & lynn and their little man tyler at a local park to shoot some family photos. later that week, after meetings, tests & diagnosis they would begin a new chapter in their lives. now one year later i want to share the words of lynn ….

“This month is dedicated to Autism Awareness. It’s been a year since our son, Tyler, was diagnosed with High Functioning Autism. I will never forget that day feeling so many emotions of complete shock, sadness, denial, helplessness, and even anger. I knew our lives would never be the same. However, I sing a different tune now about autism…all of hope instead of helplessness. With the right treatments, and catching it early, Tyler has made huge progress from not speaking at all to saying four-word sentences; from not looking directly at us at all to looking right into our eyes. As Patti mentioned, we want to thank our family and friends for all their continued support through this journey. Our experience with autism has already taught us profound life lessons.”

last week on a yet another glorious spring day i met this precious family for another photo session. one of my favorite types of photography is organic, lifestyle captures. i would give anything to have images such as these taken of me playing with my girls. patti & lynn are such good mamas & so patient and loving with tyler. no one was stressed. no one worried about their hair. no one fussing at each other to stand still & behave. just an hour ( or so) of capturing moments of doing what they do best…just being a sweet family.

i don’t usually give you much back story behind my sessions much less how i work with my clients. if you’re a young photographer intimidated about shooting families & just how that all rolls out, let me encourage you a little. try to relax & have a LOT of fun with them. they’ve chosen you because they obviously connect with your vibe, they connect with your style of shooting. so let that give you confidence. before each session i chat briefly with my families. i explain ( actually ahead of time) that i want to capture them enjoying their people. they can bring books or toys, sucker or snacks..whatever helps the littles play. if the little people pick up on how stressed the parents are, then the party’s over pretty quick. often times i just start shooting right away and play and be silly with the little guys. i also ask mama if she has anything in her minds eye that she’d love for me to try to capture. i rarely show up at a session with a strict plan. i am very particular about my lighting , but other than that i love to see how families interact. sometimes i will pull way back & shoot from a little further away allowing those that need a little space to feel comfortable to do so. i get in such a zone when i’m shooting i often times loose track of time. i could shoot all day long.

you may or may not know, but maintaining eye contact & and engaging with little ones on the autism spectrum can require a little creativity. no problem. kissing. hugging. playing peek a boo. snuggling. tickling. trains & suckers. and then a little time in the playground. no counting to three & saying cheese. no “hey ya’ll pose here for me”. i basically shoot almost non-stop because heaven forbid i’m trying too hard to get a certain pose & miss a very natural, precious unstaged moment ( which means i take a lot of photos each session!)  i have said it a hundred times but i’ll say it again, capturing sweet families loving on each other, casually & organic, has truly been one of the most life-giving joys i’ve ever experienced. i get in my car after a shoot such as this & i’ll be driving down the road only to realize after several miles, i’m still smiling.

here’s to you patti, lynn & tyler. here’s to you & many many more smile filled days.

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May 1, 2015 - 12:33 pm

chrissi - what a complete cutie. and such a sweet family. thanks for sharing a peak into another wonderful shoot.
as a sib of two adults with autism i appreciate the new awareness of autism. thankfully, for some (ours for sure) the diagnosis is not always as grim as first feared. both of my brothers thrive and have talents that far surpass me♥

May 1, 2015 - 1:39 pm

Lisa Mothersead - Beautiful story and photos. Lucky little boy, too.

May 1, 2015 - 6:05 pm

Judy - he is an absolute doll and I love those blue glasses! he reminds me of that cute little boy in the movie “Jerry McGuire”. You did a great job capturing his personality.

May 1, 2015 - 7:27 pm

Lori H - What beautiful photos. Paige, you are awesome…you celebrate each subject perfectly. Oh how I wish I lived closer to you (or you closer to me!). I hate every photo taken of me, generally. This past weekend, my sister-in-law, who we don’t get to see very often, took a casual photo of me that I actually like! I had not changed my Facebook photo in 5 years (I KNOW!) and now I have. You would have thought I cured the common cold with the way the likes poured in. I think everyone was really bored with my old photo 🙂 Anyway, a good photographer brings out a little somethin’ somethin’ and you certainly do. God gave you such a gift.

May 2, 2015 - 9:57 am

Stephanie - Paige, thank you for sharing! Such a beautiful story and tremendously good photos that demonstrate their love! Pure joy!

May 4, 2015 - 12:38 pm

Patti - Paige, your talent simply amazes me. Lynn and I just LOVE the way you capture our little family…and especially our little man. My mother would be/(I am sure she is!), so proud of you and the woman you have become. Much love sister!