Desiree Chapman Photography is the first business we’re featuring for our Profiles of C.A.R.E. series and I couldn’t be happier. Desiree offers free photography sessions to families with children or loved ones with special needs and Catherine was lucky enough to be one of her photography subjects a few years ago. It was a wonderful experience and I’m so excited to introduce this amazing woman to The Beyond The Waiting Room audience.
Desiree Chapman loves photography, but what she loves more than photography is helping special needs families. “I love doing this, because special needs families are my passion.” she says.
She has two kids on the Autism spectrum, so she’s well aware of how challenging a photo shoot can be on the parents, the photographer and especially the children.
“When I’m going to photograph a family, I ask certain questions because I need to make sure that, I not only keep the child safe, but I don’t do anything that sends that child, or it could be a teenager or an adult, into a meltdown.”
Some of the necessary questions Desiree asks are: Is there anything I could do that your child would absolutely hate? Is your child at risk for running away? Are there any tones or pitches of sound that could hurt your child’s ears? Is there anything I could do that your child would love and make them smile or laugh?
“You need to have a lot of patience.” Desiree states. “You have to understand that you may or may not ever get that child to look at you. You may not ever get a smile and you have to be okay with that.”
Every photography session is different and Desiree guarantees the family gets everything they can out of the session, regardless of whether it’s paid or free. If a child is having a bad day, the parents have the option of waiting it out until they feel better or they can schedule a reshoot for a later date.
Being behind the camera, Desiree knows how expensive good photography can be, which is one of the reasons she started offering one to two free sessions a month.
“Photography can be really expensive for families that are spending lots of money on therapies, medical supplies and that kind of thing. I wanted to do something to give back to the community and take a burden off the shoulders of the families I photograph.”
Not only is Desiree relieving a financial burden, she’s also providing an important emotional component for these families, as well.
“Some parents will go into this and tell you, ‘I know my child might not ever look at you, but I want a family picture and do the best you can,’ and we do. One of the last photo sessions I did, their child had Autism and I showed her mom one of the photos and she cried,” Desiree remembers. “That is the most rewarding feeling. You have no idea that you’re able to get something they absolutely love and they’re crying because you touched them so much with an image.”
Desiree shows no sign of stopping in her quest to provide special families with very special photos. Last Christmas, she found a Santa who was happy to donate his time for free sessions with Old Saint Nick. This year, who knows?
“In the grand scheme of things, photography is not typically something on their list of must haves. But I feel it’s a must have because you know these mamas and daddies want to capture their family, too.”
Good thing, Desiree’s only a shutter click away.
— Written by Tamara Devers