Awesomeness is not defined by ability.
Let's get serious for a minute. Humans are amazing beasties. We have incredible talents, grand thoughts and a curious nature that has got us into all manner of weird and wonderful things.
As a photographer I see the beauty in all people, in their personality, the light that hits their face when they laugh, the sparkle in their eyes. People are awesome. Having a disability doesn't change that! It doesn't make people any less awesome or less beautiful, it's a difference that should never be discriminated against. We should celebrate difference, it's what makes us, us.
I've spoken with many families who have members with disabilities; ranging from severe physical restrictions, living with mental health issues to people on the autism spectrum. Many of whom have voiced that they really haven't had many professional photography sessions before due to varying factors such as; a fear the photographer would turn them down or not want to shoot with their family, fear of how the children may react to the photographer, uncertainty surrounding how to organise a shoot and also a lack of time or resources to get to a traditional studio.
Let me be mega clear on this - NOTHING should be a limiter on a family having fun and getting amazing images. Don't worry about getting to a studio or location, I will come to you. If your child is on the autistic spectrum and has anxieties and fears, I will happily come to your home days before a shoot to chat with them and you and talk them through every single step of what will happen, let them ask me as many questions as they want to and get a step by step feel of what a shoot entails. I have a lot of experience of working with children of all ages and abilities and understand that sometimes trusting or connecting with a new person is not going to happen immediately so a pre-shoot visit can make a huge difference to them.
If your family member uses aids or adaptations we can work with these. Shooting in your home or finding a location that works for you is number one priority. If you have a family member who is in a care setting this can also be accommodated, just a little bit of advanced planning and discussion with the setting means anything is achievable. Why shouldn't all families have memories they can look back on?
I know the worry of having someone your child doesn't know having to interact with them, the fear and dread of 'what ifs'. What if they shut down and give them the silent treatment, what if they have a meltdown and cry at them, what if they can't/won't smile or look at the camera? I have had these fears too and for one of my daughters looking at the camera and holding a gaze doesn't happen easily or often. In many pictures she is looking off camera or down at her hands and, do you know what? It doesn't matter.
She looks amazing, just as she is (totally stolen the theme of that from Bridget Jones Diary!). I will get a split second of her looking at me then she looks off at something else. This is fine, this is her. She struggles with eye contact and holding a gaze makes her feel super uncomfortable so I don't make her. I'd rather have images of her feeling relaxed than ones where she looks uncomfortable and stressed/strained.
If you really want a shot with everyone looking at the camera I can usually make this happen due to wizardry and magic (technically photoshop but I prefer the term magic!).
I understand when your child or family member needs space and take my cues from them, nobody likes to feel overwhelmed and overstimulated and in these moments I back off and, more often than not, get some beautiful images from a distance when they're unaware of me still shooting.
In the end, all that matters for your shoot is you. Working with you to make this an enjoyable and relaxed session is my number one priority.
As I haven't added any random music in I'd like to sign off on this fabulous pair of ladies. Off to see them soon and cannae wait! Check them out, a little bit Hole, a little bit Alanis, a little bit Elastica - a whole heap of awesome.
Love, always, Suzi x