A picture really is worth a thousand words — and nothing proves this more than Samantha Bishop’s Jurassic-themed photos of her son Levi and his cousin Lola.
“Levi and Lola love Jurassic Park, but Levi is autistic and doesn’t usually like posed family photos,” Samantha shared on her Facebook page. “He always says, ‘I don’t know what to do with my face.'”
So, the photographer and mom found a creative solution: to stage a one-of-a-kind photo shoot based on her son’s unique sense of humor. The results were both hilarious and breathtaking.
The true story behind the photos began when Samantha was 18, and had Levi. When he was just 6 months old, she left a toxic relationship, boarded a plane with her son and a duffel bag full of belongings, and then spent the next 8 months homeless. Eventually, she found a job to provide for herself and Levi.
However, when Levi started preschool, he was struggling. He had emotional outbursts, meltdowns, and was as Samantha puts it, “different.” After many appointments, meetings, and encounters, Levi was diagnosed with autism.
She shared on Facebook:
“For years, I struggled with his diagnosis. I resented it. I prayed for a normal day, a normal life. For t-ball games and birthday parties. For him to be able to have recess and PE, and art and music classes. I fell for the pressure of having an “Insta Perfect” life and posting adorable photos of my child smiling happily and looking at the camera.”
As it would turn out, eye contact makes Levi uncomfortable and frustrated. Even with a lot of breaks and bribery, having his photo taken is a challenge.
“[In] many of his photos you will notice he is looking away from the camera and not smiling, when in fact he is a very happy go lucky and goofy kid in person,” Samantha tells Babble.
Then one day, she had an idea.
“I bought the costume as a surprise because I knew he would love it, and he did,” she says. “He laughed hysterically. The session went great and the kids love the photos.”
The photos are unconventional — yet there is something magical about sweet Lola in her safari hat with two braids peeking out, posing alongside Levi the “T-rex.” Quirky, beautiful, and intriguing, these pictures are almost guaranteed to make anyone smile, which Samantha says is important.
“I’ve always found the most powerful photos are the ones that give the viewer strong emotions, especially laughter and tears,” she says. “I think the photos themselves are hilarious, but the story behind them opens up eyes to the everyday struggles special needs families can face.”
Samantha admits that being a special needs parent can be extremely hard, especially when you’re doing it alone. Still, she says that learning to not only accept, but embrace her son’s special needs has alleviated a lot of her frustration — and that nurturing her son’s strengths has made all the difference.
“This is the goofy, hilarious, kindhearted boy I was given,” wrote Samantha in her Facebook post. “Because of his special needs, he has a near-photographic memory, he is as blunt as they come, he can build anything, and he is hilarious and brilliant. And so I choose to celebrate his “labels” and teach him to use them to his advantage rather than see them as an obstacle.”
Certainly, with these photos, Samantha has found a way to celebrate both her son and his cousin’s true personalities at the same time. She also says she hopes to challenge the trend of stiff, posed family photos we’re used to seeing.
“I hope to show that these memories of them just being kids are one thousand times more valuable than the photos of them sitting still and smiling,” she says.
It looks like she’s achieved just that.