The Teen behind the Camera: Meet Brian
By Carolyn VanBrocklin, Communications Specialist, Disability.gov Team
Brian wants to go to photography camp by himself, he excitedly explains on the day of his photo shoot. This is a big deal for the teen, who has autism. With a camera hung around his neck, he takes in the sights at the Newseum in downtown Washington, D.C. A giant screen shows a looping video; a news helicopter is suspended from the ceiling. Brian lifts his camera, focuses the viewfinder and clicks the shutter – capturing the moment perfectly.
Brian’s passion for photography began three years ago when he was in the sixth grade. He had always been fascinated by people with cameras. In fact, it was the only time he would leave his mom’s side, she says as she watches her son pose, now the subject of a photographer. For the last few years, he has been very active in not only pursuing, but manifesting his innate passion for photography. He picked out his first camera by himself, after carefully researching online reviews and selecting a popular model that was widely agreed upon as a great option for first-time users.
This interest in photography has made Brian a young entrepreneur. He has compiled his original photographs into two calendars, which he sells online. His calendars capture images of nature, outdoors scenes and zoo animals – the lions are his favorite – and the profits have allowed him to buy some of the seven cameras he owns. He’s excited to get another camera and already knows exactly what kind he wants. His time spent on Google and eBay, when not involved with schoolwork and social events, means he knows the details, costs and reviews of many different kinds. His favorite photography subjects are trees and statues, but lately he’s been more interested in photographing people playing sports or doing other activities, as well as taking pictures of food.
When not behind the camera, Brian enjoys his high school physics, math and humanities classes. He works hard to meet new academic demands of high school. He’s actively involved at home, in his church’s Sunday school and in the Friday Night Club with other special needs teens in his hometown. Three nearby colleges (Harvard University, Boston University, and Massachusetts Institute of Technology) team up to put on the Friday Night Club, which rotates among the schools. Brian and his peers watch movies, sing karaoke and ice skate. He likes to take self-designed community field trips around Boston and beyond, where, he explains, he enjoys hiking mountains to the top.
Brian has many ambitions about his photography. His mom thinks he could open a camera store some day because he knows so much about cameras. These days, though Brian faithfully totes his cameras around, he’s become less interested in pictures and more interested in the machinery. Ask Brian about the seven cameras he owns and which one he wants next and he rattles off letters, numbers and other specifications. His mom is waiting to see how his interests continue to evolve.
The teen’s family is working with him to find out what he wants to do next. He’s read career books, and they’re looking for ways to help him figure out what he wants to do after he’s finished high school. His mom plans to talk to him about sports and food photography. This was the reason for Brian’s participation in the No Boundaries Project – he knows what he wants, but there’s not really a clear path to follow. So he, with his mom’s help, is forging his own.
Brian’s mom shared these words of wisdom with the Disability.gov team: “Tune in and try to find an interest.” Whatever Brian is interested, she goes with, and tries not to see limitations. She’s currently working on learning more about colleges and photography schools to assist him with the options available to him. Brian is on his way to creating his own path to a career in photography.