I wrote these words last year as I prepared for Stories of Autism photo shoots – and I’m sharing them again today as I look for others willing to share their stories:
I had stumbled across the Stories of Autism website years ago. The beauty of the photographs first captured my attention – but it was the essays from the parents that captivated me and kept me on the site. It wasn’t long before I had tears rolling down my cheeks, moved by the words that described emotional and physical challenges, social and academic hardship, and most of all, the parents’ love.
Paging through the gallery, I would admire the photographer’s image, and continue on to read the parent’s essay. And then I would look back at the image with new eyes. It was no longer a pretty picture – it was truly a portrait. These were faces of sons and daughters who continually fight to overcome obstacles – and behind those faces were entire teams of families, therapists, and teachers – each trying to do their best for that child.
Looking through the gallery that day, I could not help but think of the parents who would stumble across the Stories of Autism website after a new diagnosis. For all of the overwhelming statistics and medical jargon on the internet, the Stories of Autism website is a place of hope. The challenges and obstacles are not sugar-coated, but to a new parent – it is a gallery full of faces leaning in to whisper: You can do this.
These are images from the sessions that I’ve done over the past three years:
This year I’ll be photographing a limited number of participants on the Autism Spectrum in Southeastern Wisconsin. Participants will be asked to fill out a registration form and model release, giving permission to use the child’s image, first name, and story. The photography sessions will take place in their home in January and February, and the gallery will be released in April for Autism awareness month. The photo session is complimentary, and the family will receive two 8×10 prints and the two digital files of those images that they can reprint for their families and friends.
The Stories of Autism organization has asked that the photographers look for stories that show the diversity of subjects that autism affects. I hope to photograph some folks from different cultural and ethnic backgrounds that are missing representation in the gallery, and to showcase more adults as well.
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