I know that the topic of this post has been mentioned via my facebook page and some of it's images but I am unsure if I have ever blogged about this before. I apologize if this post turns out to be a near replica of any other, as I don't recall ever posting about it here.
I had a shoot the other day and I want to discuss it with everyone, as I find the subject of my shoot amazing. My subject was my 7 year old cousin. You may recognize him as the "face" of Candice Smith Photography, as he's graced my blog header since I began it. For those not familiar, this is the image I am referring to:
That photo was the first, non-snapshot, photo that I ever got of him. This was taken around Halloween 2011 when he was 6 years old. Considering that I've been into photography since 2008, I'm sure some of you are wondering why it is that I wasn't able to get a photo of him sooner. My dear sweet cousin is autistic. He's OCD and has ADHD and social anxiety. And, he also has asthma and isn't able to be outside in weather cooler than 70 degrees because of a catastrophic bout with an upper respiratory virus that left him in a medically induced coma as an infant and left possibly permanent scar tissue on his lungs. He's also highly allergic to mosquitoes and is deathly afraid of bugs.
Because we live in Florida, this presents a lot of problems with trying
to get him outside, even in amazing weather that he could otherwise
His breathing difficulties, mosquito allergy and, fear of bugs means that Fall is the best time to shoot with him. The weather is still warm enough, and it's dry enough that most of the mosquitoes are no longer around his home.
His autism and OCD means that I have to shoot at his home because he doesn't like any abnormal un-scheduled change in his surroundings.
His social anxiety means that, even if I convince him to go anywhere else, it has to be free of other people. It's hard to find those sorts of places in this area in the Fall because it's tourist season. Our population BOOMS, and all of our local venues get flooded with people who live here part-time.
Now to my latest session with him:
I recently discussed the idea of trying to take him away from the house for a change. This had to be planned MONTHS in advance because we needed to plant the seed in his head that I'd be taking him out for a few hours. To get him to agree, I had to be very specific as to where we were going, who was all going, who's car we would be in, and how long we would be gone. If I had not given him this information, he would have panicked and it wouldn't have turned into a photo shoot. I was very meticulous about all of this, and he ensured I kept my word on ALL aspects of the planning.
A few weeks ago, we had the shoot. I picked him up when I said I would and in the car I said I would. Only those I had informed him of, myself and my boyfriend, were in the car and coming along for the shoot. He reminded me of the time frame I promised to keep and, because he recently learned to read time, informed me of what time we'd need to be returning home for that promise to be kept. He eyeballed the windows and the clock the whole ride to the park. I was amazed he did so well in the car because I wasn't able to give him accurate directions to the park and because there is limited viewing from the back windows of my boyfriends truck. He doesn't like having his view obstructed in vehicles. I let him know that we'd be sure to keep to the schedule so long as he took direction and trusted me, he agreed.
We got to the park and the shoot began. We let him roam a bit, and I snapped candids of him as he explored this new location. We staged a few shots, serious face and silly faces. I had to change it up a lot because his attention span is so much less than the average child his age. He gets bored quickly. Upon walking the grounds, I found an area that I thought would be amazing for a shot. Given all of his quirks, I knew it might be a challenge to get him to agree, but I felt it was worth it at least to ask. I do not force anything on him, as his reaction is double-triple the reaction of most other children. He gets very emotional, very quickly. Any wrong move on my part and the session could take a much different tone than the agreeable and happy tone we were having thus far.
I wanted him to walk through chest high grass to a broken log, just thick enough that it would make an awesome child sized seat. Yes, I wanted him to try this and I asked. I was waiting for the complaints - bugs, stickers, dirt, splinters from the log.
...........................wait, no complaint? No negotiation? No emotional plea?
He asked that I hold his hand so that he didn't trip over any rocks. He sat on the log, never mentioning the possibility of bugs. He sat. He listened to my direction and patiently sat as I got all of the shots I wanted, never hurrying me along and never starting any complaint about what was happening. When I wrapped up, he asked that I hold his hand and walk him back out. I asked if he was okay, did he want to keep going through the park. At this point, I figured we were probably running his patience thin but he asked that we keep going, he wanted to run on the side walk and watch a girl on a bicycle as she made laps around the lake. We finished the lap around the lake on foot, which put us back to our starting point at the entrance of the park. I grabbed a few more shots and we left to get some dinner (a bribe his mother offered if he'd be good for us haha).
I got him home with 15 minutes to spare, which he was happy for. My aunt looked at me with her questioning face, "how'd everything go?" I knew she expected that I'd have issues with him. He's never been anywhere without her before. He'd never been outside of the house with me alone before. It was a change in his schedule, and we've all seen what happens when his schedule is screwed up. "Everything went fine, he was great!". I wonder if she thought I was just trying to make her feel better, but once I explained what happened (especially the grass and the log situation), she was amazed that he had actually done great. I wasn't making it up, he did amazing!
I've made great progress with him. He even agreed to let me take him out as often as I'd like, for photos or for anything else. I think my aunt was relieved to know she could let him go off with me. I'm sure she always wanted to be able to, but worried he'd have an episode and it wouldn't pan out. Now she knows she can, at least with me. And, I love my cousin...I could kidnap that boy all of the time :) hahaha
And a few "silly face" shots. I got this from him because he didn't know what to do. The looks says, "really? You WANT me to look ridiculous?!" Did I mention that I LOVE this kid?! :)
This ended up being the face I told him to make. "Moose face"! Too bad he refused to do it until I changed position and was no longer sitting in front of him hahaha Oh well, we tried :)
Yes he has battled, and still battles, a lot of things for someone so
young. Through all of this, he is the: smartest, sweetest, and
silliest kid I have ever met. He is an inspiration, a miracle, and a treasure to
anyone who takes the time to truly get to know him. He is amazing, and I'll make sure he
always knows it.