If you would like to set up a photography session, or have any questions, contact me via email: betsy@betsyjophotography.com. Thank you!

Friday, March 6, 2009

Depth: (n) emotional profundity; intensity.

I had a session today that had so much thought and emotion surrounding it. It starts with a little history:

A little over 10 years ago, when Paul and I were first engaged, I met her, as a friend of Paul's family. Unfortunately, the first time we met, it was in the waiting area of an emergency room, as Paul's family heard the worst news anyone could ever experience. I don't think I'll ever forget the compassion and kindness she showed to all of us, soft words of comfort and kind deeds to soothe grieving hearts.

After Paul and I were married, we moved into the same apartment building as she and enjoyed living across the hall from her, even borrowing dishwasher detergent now and then. I knew her to be quietly intent, intuitive, and extremely charitable.

We moved to our current home not long after, and over time lost touch with her, occasionally hearing of joyous news as she married and welcomed three beautiful children into the world. We would see each other now and then, always sharing a hug and a few words to catch up on each other's lives.

A few weeks ago, I received an email from her, our old acquaintance. Jean-Marie asked me if I would be willing to take some pictures of her sweet little boy Sam. She related to me that Sam was recently diagnosed with autism, and Jean Marie shared some of her struggles, her deep love for her sweet son, and her wish to have some beautiful pictures to help her when the days get weary. The question of whether or not I was willing could be answered easily- I felt so honored and privileged to be able to capture this little boy in his endearing innocence, as well as his two beautiful sisters. I was able to meet with them this morning, and I shared a little play date with the 3 of them in our gorgeous town library, just following along, capturing little moments as they enjoyed all that was around them.

I learned so much today, through the lens of my camera, as I watched Sam playing and exploring the library. I saw joy as he found something exciting, and curiosity when he didn't quite know what he was experiencing. I saw familiarity and comfort in his eyes when he looked at his sisters or his friend and helper, Jayme. I also saw Sam use his innate abilities to capture this photographer's heart. But most of all, above all the others, I saw this: Sam loves his mother. It was a wonder to see his reaction to her compassion and strength- those same qualities she showed her 'across-the-hall' neighbors 10 years ago. The relationship between Jean-Marie and Sam is a beautiful, hard-to-explain bond, between a mother and her son. I'm so thankful that I had the privilege to see it today.

Autism is a broad-spectrum developmental disorder, and affects children in increasingly alarming numbers. It knows no boundary of race, social status, culture, or income level. It can affect any child, any family. Unfortunately, too little is understood about the cause or treatment of autism, and the parents and others who love the affected children are doing what they can to help further research and treatment. In our correspondence, I learned that Sam's family has started a drive to help in the furthering of autism research by participating in "Walk Now for Autism." I offered to tell their story here on my photo journal to share with others. I know that Sam's mom and dad need help and understanding as they face this uncertain road before them. It is their hope that awareness can be furthered, and a cure someday be found. If you would like to help by giving to their walk team- labeled the "Samcredibles," you can click here to make your donation securely online. I know that above all, they appreciate your support.

So here are a lot of images. A lot, I know. But it was such a nice day, and all three of the children did so well, that I had a very difficult time choosing between all of the ones we captured. So I've picked many of my favorites. I hope you enjoy them as much as I have.

We started by picking out some books to read-

And then, of course, some puzzles-

Some exploring-

Adorable Grace found a stuffed teddy to love:
Sweet Aly-

Jean Marie wears 3 charms, each one representing one of the children. She also has a puzzle piece, the design for the awareness of autism. And Sam knows it's just for him, as you can see by this picture:

Beautiful brown-eyed girl:

The curls...

Someone loves his mommy:

And a final quote from one of Jean-Marie's emails: "

Being close to an individual with Autism is about celebrating life. It’s about finding beauty in small things. It’s about overcoming society’s stigmas. It’s about learning fresh ways to look at things. It does not have to be about tragedy, or pain, or loss."


  1. Betsy, There are some really beautiful gems in these photos. You did such a beautiful job. The emotion and compassion you felt are so palpable within these photos. Congratulations on the wonderful job you did telling Sam's story in words and in photographs.

  2. Betsy- Great job!! These are beautiful, I'm so thankful I was able to be a small part of this day! - Jayme

  3. Betsy,
    I am proud of you. These pictures made me cry. The photos are beautiful of all three children and Jean Marie.

  4. Thank you! Wow. You're all very kind. It was such a good day. -And, Jayme, it was so nice to have you there with us!

  5. Betsy- BEAUTIFUL BEAUTIFUL BEAUTIFUL. These pictures are moving and show the loving relationship between Sam and his family. Great Job!!- ashley

  6. CollersleanMarch 07, 2009

    Betsy- They are truly wonderful! It is amazing that when you started this in January you had no idea where it would take you. It just shows that this whole effort is being blessed! He is a BEAUTIFUL boy!

  7. Betsy- There truly are no words to adequately convey what an amazing job you did- I've been crying all day-the photos captured more than I ever dreamed possible!- Jean-Marie

  8. I'm so glad, Jean-Marie. Really, really glad that this is all that you hoped it could be. Thank you again for a wonderful morning!

  9. WOW! I have no words! The pictures, the words, you truly are so talented! We are all so blessed to have you, so perfectly, capture these perfect moments that mean so much! -Bethany

  10. As a mother of a very young boy who is diagnosed with ASD I know how special, and how fleeting, the moments you have captured here truly are. I had to look at the pictures more than once, because I had tears streaming down my face before I got through them all. They are truly beautiful!!

  11. Thank you Betsy for these beautiful pictures of Sam and his wonderful family. I have been blessed to know Jean Marie as a co-worker, but more importantly as a friend. Honestly, I got a little teary looking at the the pictures, they were so moving. You have truly captured the depth of the love of "JM" for her beautiful children. Karen H.

  12. All your comments make me smile. Thanks for taking the time to leave them.

  13. Jean-Marie;

    At times, we alone as parents can see the beauty and strength in our children that often society can’t recognize, or even understand. To those who walk by and only judge, they hear a child who might talk differently or act in ways that are not common or even understandable. What they fail to appreciate, however, is that these children are stronger in who they are because they talk odd or act differently. It is the differences in these kids that truly make them who they are. It is also what makes us love them just a little bit more each and every day. Yes, they might not be “perfect” to society, but they are “perfect” to us, because we love them for who they are, and they, in their own special way, love us back. By reassessing the common definition of perfect, we all come one step closer to achieving this most unattainable of ideas. As I started to learn the moment my daughters were born into the harsh world of prematurity, the trip of life is only bumpier when we cling to expectations of what life could be like, or should be like. As we have all learned, life is not perfect. It is these imperfections, however, that identify so keenly how and why we love our children so very, very much.

    Thanks now to Sam and these beautiful photographs, I have learned just a little more about life. These lessons will now forever help me to change who I am, and how I relate to all others.

    With love,


  14. Betsy,
    On behalf of Jean-Marie's parents, we would like to thank you for the amazing job you did capturing Sam, Ally, and Grace. You truly are gifted in what you do. We cried when we saw those beautiful pictures. God bless you! We will always be grateful to you for taking the time to do what you have done.
    Tom and Fran Dzicek

  15. Thank you for the kind comment, Tom and Fran. It was such a privilege to get to be with all 3 of your adorable grandchildren, and to see Jean-Marie again. I also went to school with Marc and Katie, and you have such a nice family.

  16. Wow Betsy! I haven't visited in awhile-- you've been busy! Let me tell you-I shed quite a few tears. Looking forward to redeeming my prize...
    Auntie Jo