I have had several friends who are professional photographers take pictures of our family, my children and various events for a long time. Rory Schweighart and his wife Christina have taken the majority. Rory just seems to be able to capture the essence that I am looking for. I made an appointment with Rory when Larkin was 1 year old. We went to his studio in Mahomet and I held no expectations. Larkin was doing well at this point. She would smile every so often and the steroid look had begun to go away. BUT she still couldn’t stand, walk or turn to her name very often. These are things that photographers generally need when taking pictures of a toddler.
Rory began to shoot and Chase was helpful – but acting like a 12 yr old. Larkin was actually very responsive and smiling. Rory kept after Chase to stand Larkin up and Chase would do his best but Larkin was 20lbs of dead weight. Finally I realized – Rory didn’t know she couldn’t stand. So I mentioned it softly – whispering – “Rory she can’t stand”. Rory’s head popped up from behind his lens and he said “OH, I had no idea” and went on about his way. It began to dawn on me that Rory didn’t realize Larkin had a disability. He knew about the seizures and medications but he didn’t see the slant to her eyes, or her flat nose bridge. He didn’t see Down syndrome. THAT is when I fell truly in love with Rory. He saw my girl. He saw Larkin. He saw the beauty of my child and never labeled her. I explained to Rory in a quiet moment that Larkin has Down syndrome. He was shocked, and I know at the time embarrassed, although he shouldn’t have been. He was just taking the beauty of my kids in and giving me a beautiful record of his view.
I made another appointment like I do every year around my kid’s birthdays. Yeah! for me that they are born within a month of each other. This was 2007 and Larkin’s Place was just beginning to take shape. Rory had found my blog and when I came into his studio he didn’t want to take pictures just yet. He wanted to talk about Larkin’s Place. He was excited. He couldn’t get words out fast enough. Christina was there with him and between the two I deciphered through their jumbled thoughts, words and fast speak – they wanted to take pictures and document, decorate, show the world what they see in children with disabilities. What I failed to mention above is that Rory already had been taking pictures of children using walkers and to this mothers informed eye I could see the child had Cerebral Palsy. THAT is one more thing I love about CRP – the studio doesn’t hide our children. Rory and Christina put the photo up front on display because it’s a beautiful photo. But to this mom – it spoke volumes. To any parent with a child with special needs it speaks to the nature of the people in this building and behind the lens. THEY GET IT WITHOUT TRYING!!!
Rory and Christina have taken photographs of Team Larkin Polar Plunge for the Special Olympics. They took photographs of the “Run For The Health Of It” that Christie Clinic sponsored. Now they are working on more ideas for Larkin’s Place. They make me laugh with their enthusiasm and they humble me with their love for my children. Most of all I am humbled because they capture the very best of what God has blessed me with. Rory and Christina SEE Larkin. When I look at their photos, my heart doesn’t skip a beat because I see Down syndrome, I see Larkin. I see Chase. I see love, devotion, depth and I see the purity of souls. I love you Rory and Christina. I can’t thank you enough for being able to capture the beauty that this mother feels and put it into print. I can’t thank you enough for knowing that beauty is always there and those with special needs don’t need labels.