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Archive for March, 2012

Zoom Focus: A Kids-Eye View of the Capital District

 Hand Over Hand Photography: DiAnna Marr’s Remarkable Camera-Land

When our son Jonah was a wee baby, Andy and I had a “professional” picture taken of him at a store studio.  We did this again, ritual-like, when Jonah was six months old, and I think we managed another at 13 months or so, Easter-themed.   By then, though, we couldn’t take him to any barber so we had to cut his hair ourselves – and the resulting picture portrayed a half-smiling waif with butchered hair, clutching a yarn-covered plastic egg.  After that, the whole idea became unthinkable.  Before he was two we knew better than to attempt such a feat.

For that matter, what kid, disabled or not, is an angel for this kind of thing?  The whole experience is difficult at best for any family.  By the time the pictures are taken, you’re just hoping for a smile.  “You never look at those photos as REAL memories,” said DiAnna Marr, Hand Over Hand’s photographer.  “The best photos are not forced, with strained smiles, but sincere moments.”

Hand Over Hand Photography embodies what its name implies – an experience of working together to find beauty in everything.  DiAnna is a refreshingly new kind of photographer – the kind who not only travels to you but also listens to you as well.  She wants the families she works with, especially the children, to be themselves, relax, and have fun.  She knows how to capture not only the beauty of a smile but also the radiance in spontaneous emotion.   She’s friendly, laid back, and professional too.

DiAnna’s thoughtful perspective extends beyond the camera to small personal gestures and considerate, thoughtful touches.  “I always bring a junk camera with me,” she told me. “Younger, more curious kids can hold it or play with it so they can connect and feel part of the process.”  And don’t worry about presenting perfection or polite little cherubs.  “I’m comfortable and relaxed with behaviors of all types, and flexible with time, “ she said; ”temper tantrums happen, issues come up.  It’s life.”

Maybe that’s the best part about working with DiAnna:  there isn’t any pressure, and you can be yourself around her. Unperturbed by fussy kids and grumpiness, there’s an especially nice bonus in the fact that she works so well with disabled kids or those with more serious behavioral problems.  She’s got several years’ experience teaching and caring for children with autism, other cognitive, and physical disabilities, and she’s qualified to handle outbursts of aggression.

As much as she enjoys photo sessions with babies and younger kids, DiAnna has a special place in her heart for high school senior photos.  I think maybe she knows that their official school photos so often are disappointing, and it’s a difficult age for self-esteem.    “Showing people how captivating they are is an amazing experience,” she said.    DiAnna welcomes new ways of seeing; she doesn’t limit herself to any particular type of photography.   Her engagement sessions and wedding portfolios are uniquely crafted and truly affordable, and her undivided attention feels like a gift when you’re the subject behind her lens.

Visit Hand Over Hand Photography on Facebook and say hello.  Then check out DiAnna’s website.  It reflects who she is in a uniquely accurate way – from the stunning photos she’s taken to the site’s design and feel.  Make sure to visit her ‘Behind the Lens’ page.  On one side of the page is a photograph of the photographer herself – DiAnna, smiling, eyes lifted almost shyly into the light, framed by hazy flowers.

On the other side, her words:  what she wants you to know about her.  She doesn’t use this space to list credentials or brag about the quality of photography equipment in her collection.  Instead, what she has to say is much more personal.    “I try to use my camera to capture the sense of wonder I still have about the world and the people in it,” she writes.

“You are beautiful.  I will show you.”

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Tuesday, two people from Jonah’s school drove him up to his glaucoma appointment, and I met them there.  This was his first appointment at a glaucoma doc since they determined he had it.  We knew he had a good chance of getting glaucoma.  In February of 2010 they operated on his left eye, placing a Reticert implant inside (which constantly emits a controlled dosage of a steroid, locally) and they replaced the lens of his eye with a fake one.  Too much pressure in his eye.  Glaucoma was likely, eventually, they said.

In photos you can see his left and right eyes look different.

And so now glaucoma.  At the appointment I was given a brochure called Understanding and Living With Glaucoma.  Its clear, clinical language was interrupted in just one place:  the first sentence (under the heading What is Glaucoma?), which somehow managed to sound both dismal and anthropomorphic:

Glaucoma is an eye disease that gradually steals your vision.

I closed the brochure.  Not now.

During the whole time, Jonah was the bravest little boy ever.  I’m so very proud of him.  The doc was almost an hour late, so we had to entertain him, and the two people who drove him up from school turned out to be incredibly awesome, operating like a well oiled machine.  I don’t mean to say they were in any way cold, either.  E was a short giant of a woman.  She knew her shit.  She was friendly and efficient, and perceived exactly how to handle everyone, from me to the doc to the receptionist.   E put everyone at ease, and kept everything at Def-Con 1.  A compassionate magician of a woman.

She understands the system and works well within it, but she also demands respect and damn well gets it.   I loved her.

With her was J, a muscular young-looking man with a strong-yet-softie look about him.  He and Jonah were like brothers.  (I kept thinking of Rainman:  V-E-R-N.  My main man Vern).  J is definitely Jonah’s main man.  He knew how to re-direct Jonah and did so with a deceptively casual brilliance.  He’d look over at Jonah and say give me the punch and they’d bump fists, Jonah giggling.  J too was friendly and comforting; when I sang with Jonah he said “you got pipes” – and we chatted easily.  He told me he was an amateur boxer, and he was about 10 years older than I’d pegged him for – all the while engaging with Jonah as necessary and wise.  I loved him.

I tell you these people were awesome.  I was so grateful I was nearly in tears.  When other people are in charge of your child, people who are not relatives or even friends, you want to kneel before them as you would royalty, for they have the most important job in the world, to parents like Andy and me.  They care for our little boy.  He will be ten on March 7th,  sharing a birthday with, of all people, Tammy Fay Baker.

Wait!  Wow.  I just searched for “Who was born on March 7th” out of curiosity, and found out Elizabeth Moon shares his birthday!  She wrote one of my favorite books, The Speed of Dark– set slightly in the future, about a man who has high-functioning autism and must decide whether or not to undergo a new procedure to make him normal.  The book is where I got the title for this blog, Normal is a Dryer Setting.  In The Speed of Dark, one character with autism says it during a conversation.  I love that.  Who else was born on March 7th?  Ravel, the composer.  Wanda Sykes, the comedienne.  And even Pam Carter – Wonder Woman’s sister.

But I digress.

Doc was good.  A little cool and clinical, but 99% of doctors are, after all.  (Not you, Jacob.  Or you, Neil. You’re the 1%.  HA!)  Here’s where it gets weird, though.  With both E and J holding Jonah, the doc put numbing drops into Jonah’s eyes (Jonah’s used to eye drops so that wasn’t the big deal you’d think it might be) and then looked through his fancy machine and said “this suture is broken.” He turned to the nurse, asked her for an instrument, and proceeded to (I have no idea how) remove the broken suture from the back of my son’s eye.  Um, okay.  Wow.

Turns out it had been scratching his retina, the suture, and as a result the retina was red and irritated.  “How long do you think it’s been broken?” I asked.  “Months,” he replied coolly.  “At least.”  I looked at the suture he’d set on a tray.  “Could he have been in pain all this time?” I asked.  He paused.  “Yes,” he answered.

But Jonah’s to the point where he can say if something hurts, I was thinking.  After his eye operation, he cried in misery and very clearly stated “eye hurts!”  I don’t understand and I don’t know what to think.

But in a few weeks they’re going to put him under anesthesia so two specialists can take a closer look at his retina.

Then the doctor set me up with the name of a rheumatologist who sees children – something we were told a year ago did not exist in this area…which is why we traveled to Boston Children’s Hospital to get him diagnosed with juvenile arthritis, something all the doctors here suspected he had.  Now, finally, he can be hooked up with a rheumatologist.

There is more but I am tired.  It has been a very exciting day, and I’ll tell you all more about that later.  I have to go watch Tora Tora Tora; my dad said it was the most historically accurate portrayal of the events leading to the attack on Pearl Harbor, and I’m interested in that.

Good night all.  Good night, little Boo.  Sweet dreams.  If there’s any mistakes in this I’ll come back and fix ’em tomorrow.  I don’t have it in me to edit.

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