Celebrating Autistic Pride Day, Studio G Photography Style

Autistic Pride, Studio G Photography, Oldham

 

When we started Studio G Photography, it was never with the intention of specialising in working with children with additional needs. It was not something that had ever occurred to us. But little by little I discovered I was quite good at photographing what we like to call ‘children less ordinary’. I was able, with patience and perseverance, to get beautiful images of children that parents believed were impossible to photograph. I thought I just had a natural affinity with these children, particularly the autistic ones.

Then, my own beautiful but somewhat troubled girl was diagnosed. And the penny dropped. I had been nurturing my own autistic child for years. Of course these children made sense to me. Since then, we have actively sought out opportunities to photograph children with additional needs. I see it as a wonderful challenge, and the satisfaction in seeing the joy on a parent’s face when I show them beautiful photographs of their child, is second to none.

Modern child portrait photography by Studio G Photography Oldham

My own autistic daughter

I really enjoy working with autistic children, both at Studio G and in my role as a director of Hack Oldham. Once you take time and make the effort to get to know them they have a refreshingly honest, direct and fascinating view of the world. Of course, every child is different, but my girl cannot be anything other than honest. She sees solutions to problems that a neurotypical mind might never think of, and she is baffled by the concept of bigotry. To her, everyone is absolutely equal, and to treat anyone otherwise makes no sense to her. She will never understand racism or homophobia and to me, that makes her an exceptional person. Autistics have many many problems to face, but they have many things to teach us.

Today, Autistic Pride Day, we launch a new flyer promoting our packages tailored to the very individual needs of these very special children. These flyers will be available from Hack Oldham, from POINT (Parents of Oldham in Touch) and from any organisations who would like a supply of them.

 

Understanding

Whilst we do have experience of working with children with additional needs, we know that no two children are the same, so our starting point is to get to understand your child’s specific needs and issues. As a parent or carer, you know best how they are likely to react to being photographed, and what might help. So we start with having a chat with you, and perhaps your child, before we even think about getting a camera out.

 Time

We think time is the key to success. Most photographers work to a strict timetable, but we understand that you might not be able to arrive when you planned, because the unexpected happens. We allow plenty of time for the booking, to make sure your child has time to get used to us, and our studio, and our kit. We need to build up rapport and trust, and it can be an hour before we actually take any photographs. Sometimes we don’t take any and arrange another session. We’ll take as much time as we need to get the right results.

Accessibility

We’re based in the centre of Oldham, with a loading bay right outside and parking nearby. We’re also close to bus and tram stops. Inside, our office and studio space are fully accessible.

If you would like to book an additional needs portrait session, or just chat to us about what we can offer, please call the studio on 0161 300 6224, or fill in the form on our contact page.

What does Autism look like?

A not uncommon response when I tell people I have an autistic child is: “Really? She doesn’t look autistic.” This sort of remark tends to infuriate the parents of children on the spectrum, but it’s sort of a fair point. It just illustrates how little most people know about autism.

The ‘popular’ view, courtesy of Hollywood and the media, is that people with Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD) are like Dustin Hoffman’s “Rainman” character – unable to socialise and communicate properly, incapable of eye contact, yet possessing some kind of memory superpower. There are people who match that profile, but every autistic person, like every other person in society, is different.

Another common misconception is that only boys can be autistic. In fact, more and more girls are now being diagnosed. Many have been missed in the past because of their ability to mimic social behaviours and mask their symptoms.

Take these two for example.

Do they look like they can’t communicate or socialise? This pair are the best of friends. They text and chat to each other on the phone regularly, and whenever they get together, well, you can see the sort of giddiness and hilarity that usually ensues. You wouldn’t think, from looking at these photographs, that both girls have been diagnosed with ASD in the last year.

One is my daughter, the other the daughter of a good friend. We feel very fortunate to have each other for support. Behind the smiles though are a whole host of social, communication and behavioural issues that many people do not see. Keeping those smiles in place is a delicate balancing act of careful planning, structure, routines and strategies that we, as mothers, are still learning and practising. Any small but unexpected change to a carefully constructed plan can result in a huge amount of upset to our girls, who find the world a confusing and overwhelming place.

Since launching Studio G I have worked with lots of children with autism and other additional needs. I always thought I just had a natural affinity with these children, but through my daughter’s diagnosis I realise it is because I have naturally developed strategies to deal with what, up until recently, I thought were just her quirks.

Now that I know, I have thrown myself into learning as much about the autism spectrum as I can, taking workshops and training courses that will help me, not only as a parent but in my job as a photographer. As a mother I know how much I treasure photographs of my children (and I have many), yet all too often I meet parents who have never had professional photographs of their children done because they think it is too difficult or awkward. In 2018 Robert and I want to change that view. I have never yet failed to get at least one beautiful portrait of any child who has been brought to me.

But more about how we do that in the next blog…

If you are interested in knowing more about our work with children with additional needs, or would like to book a shoot for your own child, please call Lisa on 07771 553535, or send us a message via the form on our Contact page.

The Studio G ethos – what do you think?

It’s the beginning of a new year, and will soon be Studio G’s third birthday, so a good time for a little reflection.

One of the first things we did when we decided to set up our photography business was to think about what our values were, what sort of business we did – and didn’t – want to be. Fortunately, we were both on exactly the same lines, and the result was a  statement of our values and ethos, which we put on our website. People have told us that they like this approach, and that it’s quite unusual for a small business to work in this way.

But time moves on, and whilst our fundamental principles haven’t changed, we’ve learnt with experience, and it’s time to re-state – and build on – that statement to reflect our developing thinking and priorities. And this time, we’d like to involve you, our clients and friends, in finalising this piece of work.

So here’s where our thinking stands at the moment – please let us know what you think, whether you agree, disagree or think we’ve missed something. We’re all ears!

Our Values and Ethos

  • We believe in the power of photography to improve the lives of individuals, families and communities, by creating and sharing memories, and building self-belief and confidence.
  • We will always treat everyone we work with, in any capacity, with respect and dignity, and we will expect the same in return. We will continue to develop and nurture the ‘Studio G family’.
  • In our working practices, we recognise the conflicting demands placed on our clients, our colleagues and ourselves. We will always work as flexibly as possible to accommodate those demands, and will always put our own families first.
  • We are a family friendly business, and this will be reflected in the work we are willing – and not willing – to do. We do not do work that involves nudity, although we will not judge those who do.
  • We recognise that women in particular are often portrayed disrespectfully in photography, and our work will never show women in a less than positive way. Rather, we will strive to portray women as strong and independent and endeavour to use photography to help them feel good about themselves.
  • We are supportive of local businesses, particularly SMEs. We will, whenever possible, choose to work with and encourage local businesses.
  • We are firmly rooted in the community of Oldham, and we will give what support we can to local community groups and organisations.
  • We will do our best to ensure that our pricing is fair and reasonable. We believe in quality over price, and will always produce the best quality we can at the best price we can offer.
  • We will seek at all times to conduct ourselves and our business in a professional manner that reflects positively on our industry as well as ourselves.

A World Mental Health Day blog, from a bystander’s perspective

I have been fortunate enough never to have experienced mental health issues at first hand. That’s not to say I never will, but not so far. So you might wonder what I’m doing writing this blog for the World Health Organisation’s World Mental Health Day 2017, the theme of which is mental health in the workplace.

Before I took early retirement and became a photographer I worked for some 30 years in Human Resources, where I saw – and I guess participated in – mental illness being managed with varying degrees of success. More recently, a number of people close to me, including my business partner Lisa, have spoken and written openly about their own mental health, and I like to think I have learnt something along the way about how to be a good friend and colleague.

You might know about the Open Shutters project that Lisa and I have been leading, asking people to have their portrait taken and say something – in writing or to camera – about how they have turned their mental health issues to their advantage, and to give one piece of advice to others in a similar situation. Without fail, that advice has involved the vital importance of finding someone to talk to and not keeping things bottled up. If you’d like to read more about the Open Shutters Project, click here.

Lisa's Open Shutters portrait

So with that experience and, I hope, improved understanding, here are my tips if you have  friends, family or work colleagues who are experiencing mental health problems, and you’ll almost certainly know someone in that situation, whether or not you’re aware of it.

 

  • Listen! If the need to talk to someone is critically important for people with mental health issues, then it’s equally important to have someone to listen. Actually listen. Not half an ear while you’re checking on Facebook or posting a picture of your lunch on Instagram. There’s a useful guide to Active Listening  here . It’s skill that will improve with practice, so give it a try. You’ll have better conversations, and people will know you care enough to give them your undivided attention.
  • Be prepared for the conversation to take up some of your time, and give that time freely and ungrudgingly. If you’ve ever tried talking to someone who is constantly looking at their watch, you’ll know how uncomfortable that can make you feel.
  • Go easy on the questions. Active listening may involve asking some questions to ensure you’re understanding what you’re hearing, but that’s not the same as bombarding your friend or colleague with demands for further details. Often people will have deeply personal issues that they don’t want to talk about. If they do choose to open up, that’s fine, but you don’t have a right to be told anything.
  • People may cry: deal with it. If someone is upset, and cries when they’re talking to you, just let them, it’s OK. Don’t tell them not to cry, or not to get upset. The last thing they need is to think that they are behaving inappropriately, or upsetting or embarrassing you. Just offer them a tissue and carry on listening.
  • Not every problem has a solution. When we’re told that someone has a problem, it’s our instinct (particularly men) to suggest a solution or to offer to fix things. Resist that temptation. Let the person talk things through: generally if your advice is required, it will be asked for.
  • Big hugs hun! I’m a hugger, but not everyone welcomes being hugged, or having their hand held etc. If in doubt don’t, and if it’s not wanted, don’t take that as a personal sleight.
  • It’s not about you! If your friend or colleague cancels on you at short notice, or wants to sit quietly in circumstances where you’d expect them to be chatty, that’s fine. It doesn’t mean they don’t like you any more, or are cross with you. They’re just coping the best they can. They know you’re there for them, and if you’ve done your job as a friend well, they’ll reach out to you when they’re ready.
  • Don’t panic! My final piece of advice – given to me by a friend – is not to panic that because they are going through a difficult episode, they’re at risk of harming themselves or someone else. Remember that the person who knows most about someone’s mental health is the person themselves. They will have their own strategies for coping and will know when things are serious enough that they need a professional intervention.

 

World Mental Health Day is a good opportunity to reflect on how we can help those around us who need our care and support. Understanding that that can sometimes involve doing nothing more than giving them space can be difficult but may be the most important thing that they need just at that moment. I’d love to get your feedback on anything in this blog, whether it’s to agree, disagree or add something I’ve missed out.

 

Thank you for taking the time to read it.

 

Robert

 

Some of the other Open Shutters portraits:

Chris

Ella

Sarah

Scottie

Price isn’t everything – especially when it comes to your precious memories

cake smash, studio g photography, baby photography

In the space of one week recently we were contacted by two families who, quite separately, have been let down by a photographer at virtually no notice. They had both booked cake-smash photoshoots for their one year olds, and were both understandably very disappointed. They were given no reason.

We don’t normally do cake smash, but of course we offered to help them out in their hour of need – one booked us on the spot, the other, we assume, chose to go elsewhere, which is fine.

The family that booked us had organised their original shoot through a Groupon deal – at the ‘amazing’ price of £12. That’s not a price we would even attempt to match, but we could give an assurance that we certainly wouldn’t cancel at the last minute, neither would we subject them to a high-pressure sales session afterwards. The price they’re paying includes a load of web-sized images, and if they want to buy prints or other products that would be lovely, but it’s entirely up to them.

When you’re thinking about booking a photographer – whether it’s for a special birthday, a party, a wedding or anything else – of course price is an important consideration. But never forget – if it looks too good to be true, it probably is.

If you'd like to talk to us about capturing your precious moments, give us a call on 0161 300 6224, or fill in our contact form. We welcome anyone to come in and see us for a brew and a chat before you book.

People photography – an honour, a privilege and vitally important

In a week of such tragedy and grief, it’s hard to know what to write about. So much of what we do is about joy, fun and frivolity – parties, fairies, photobooths with silly hats, the excitement surrounding a new-born baby, the anticipation of a baby on the way. Somehow that doesn’t chime with the prevailing and perfectly understandable mood of anger, outrage, anxiety and sadness. At first sight, photography suddenly feels a bit of a luxury, a bit self-indulgent.

But that’s not the whole story. Not at all. As people photographers we are invited to capture key moments in people’s lives, from birth (and before) through childhood, school, university, graduation, marriage and parenthood. We see families grow, go their separate ways and occasionally reunite for a precious group portrait. Sometimes we even get asked to photograph people who are seriously ill, perhaps nearer the end of their life. Some photographers generously volunteer to take pictures of babies who have died before, during or shortly after birth.

At bad times, as well as good, people reach for photographs: photographs that stir memories, that show the beauty and personality of their loved ones. Who could remain unmoved by the images on social media pages this week as families desperately hoped for news and information. And at times of great sadness, photographs of happier times may bring some comfort to families in their grief.

Photographs also form part of social history, a permanent record to show generations to come their family origins, their daily lives, their jobs.

As photographers, we see people at moments of much happiness and deep sadness, on days filled with excitement, reminiscence, regret and absence. It is an immense privilege, and we never take it for granted.

Taster Photoshoot Pamper Parties – Come and Try For Yourself

TASTER PHOTOSHOOT PARTIES – JUST £99

 

Wondering what to do with the children this half term? Or perhaps thinking about a full pamper party but not sure whether it’s what your child would want?

This is a perfect opportunity to give it a try and do something really different during the school break.

 

If you book our Taster Photoshoot Party for just £99, your child plus three friends can enjoy:

 

  • A fun party lasting one hour
  • A light, age-appropriate make-over
  • Individual and group photoshoot
  • Soft drink and a cup-cake or snack
  • Downloadable photographs suitable for sharing on social media
  • Opportunity to buy prints at very affordable prices
  • £20 voucher to be used for a full Pamper and Pose party

 

Sound like fun? To book, or if you have any questions, look at our website www.studiog-oldham.co.uk or ring Lisa on 0161 300 6224

 

What a week! Studio G launches a mental health photography project

Lisa Marie Gee

Well. What a week! Lisa and I meet every Monday morning to discuss the week ahead. Our meeting usually takes place at Costa (other coffee shops are available – apparently) and we have a roughly organised agenda so we know what we’re doing (again, roughly). 

So last Monday, we met as usual, but the meeting did not go as planned. Lisa rather dramatically said “Well enough of that, let’s talk about something important. I’m going to launch Open Shutters today!” Now, dear reader, and I am never less than honest with you, I had heard this before. A few times, in truth, in the time we’ve been in business together. But this time, she really meant it. We didn’t even have a second coffee. We headed back to the studio and started setting up Lisa’s self-portrait which was to launch the project, we recorded the video that told her story – and if you haven’t seen it you really should – they were posted on line, and we were officially launched.  As we talked we developed a vision for an ongoing project leading to an exhibition, and perhaps even a book 

We were overwhelmed by the response, and decided we needed to post a portrait and story every working day last week, which was of course Mental Health Awareness Week and, with our enormous gratitude to Ella, Scottie, Laura and Chris we achieved that. We’ve had a number of approaches from people wanting to tell their story, and we had some great coverage in the Oldham Evening Chronicle, who were proud of the fact that Lisa used to be one of their journalists. In the event, Lisa was right to abandon our planning meeting, because the project took up the whole week for both of us. 

So why are we doing this? Mental Health is getting a lot of publicity at the moment, which can only be a good thing, but the coverage tends to focus on eliminating the stigma often attached to mental illness. No-one seems to be talking about the fact that many people who have mental illness, whether an isolated episode or an ongoing condition, find that it brings beneficial changes to their lives. The people we’ve had the privilege of photographing and talking to this week wouldn’t be the people they are had it not been for their experience of mental ill health. That’s the story we want to tell with the Open Shutters Project.  

The project was initially conceived as a personal photographic project for Lisa, but as we’ve got to know each other better, and as I’ve learned about the mental health journey that she and other good friends have taken, I couldn’t possibly let her do it alone. What we’re doing is, I believe, important. It has the capacity to help people, and perhaps change attitudes. I am very proud of Lisa for having  the Open Shutters concept, and for finally taking the plunge and launching it, and I’m also very proud and excited to be part of it. 

 

To find out more, check out our Facebook Page https://www.facebook.com/theopenshuttersproject/?fref=ts or our website www.openshutters.org.uk   

Ella Fraser

Scottie Felicia Oxton

Laura Norrey

Chris Doyle

Green Screen – a new toy at Studio G Photography

WE’VE GOT GREEN SCREEN AND WE KNOW HOW TO USE IT!

Studio G Photography, green screen, portrait photography Oldham, photoshoot party, photobooth

This week we’ve acquired a new bit of kit. It doesn’t look much – a bright green pop-up backdrop and a piece of software. But what’s exciting is what it enables us to do.
If you’ve been following us, you’ll have seen our photographs using a number of different backdrops, including fairy glens, arctic ice, Christmas scenes, elegant wallpaper, superheroes and theatrical stage curtains.  What our new set-up makes possible is to photograph someone against the green background, then add in any sort of digitally-created background and foreground.

This has lots of applications, including some we probably haven’t thought of. We’re thinking Fairytography® shoots, parties and photobooths, not to mention portraits, maternity photography and business headshots. The possibilities are limitless.

We’ve included a few examples in this blog to give you an idea of what’s possible, but really the only limit is our – and our clients’ – imagination.

This weekend we’ll be using our new set up at Oldham Comic Con, so you expect to see some great pictures of your favourite super-heroes – drop in and see us if you can.

Studio G Photography, green screen, portrait photography Oldham, photoshoot party, photobooth Studio G Photography, green screen, portrait photography Oldham, photoshoot party, photobooth Studio G Photography, green screen, portrait photography Oldham, photoshoot party, photobooth Studio G Photography, green screen, portrait photography Oldham, photoshoot party, photobooth Studio G Photography, green screen, portrait photography Oldham, photoshoot party, photobooth

A Studio G visit to the old library – Flying the flag for regeneration in Oldham

Last Saturday, we both had an opportunity to have one last look around the old Oldham Library before it’s handed over to contractors. Wearing our hard hats at a nonchalant angle, we joined a guided tour of the building in Greaves Street. The gallery curator took us to all the parts of the building that were safe to go in, pointing out what they were used for, the story behind their Victorian construction and development, and how they would fit into the new library facilities that are going to be built.

 

It was a fascinating tour. Some were seeing the building for the first time, but for most it evoked many memories of library visits with parents, schools and friends.

But the most exciting thing for us was the future. Over the next couple of years we’re going to see a transformation of this 19th century heritage building into a library and gallery for the 21st century. We were shown drawings, and the excitement in the curator’s voice was very noticeable. He also talked about what would follow on from the new library and gallery building, including the new Coliseum Theatre and Heritage Centre.

In recent years Oldham has shown it real commitment to regeneration and improvement. Despite the traditional Oldham cynical attitude – it’ll never happen, and if it does it won’t be any good – Oldham is now on the tram network giving fast and affordable links into Manchester. It has a state-of-the-art cinema which rescued the problematic old Town Hall. It has a brand new Leisure Centre, a Regional Science Centre, and will have a great retail development at Prince’s Gate, even if the details have yet to be finalised. The new library, gallery and other cultural quarter are all further evidence of the town moving forward.

We’re both very committed to Oldham, and fed up with those who seem to delight in talking their town down. Of course Oldham has its issues, as do all post-industrial towns that have lacked investment over the years, but the council has shown its commitment to do something about it, and Studio G will continue to celebrate and shout about that whenever we get the chance!

 

You can read more about Oldham Council’s plans for the old library building here: