This is Mason.
Mason is four years old. Like other boys, he likes playing outside, squabbles with his sister and builds rocketships with blocks. He also has sensory processing disorder, which means he reacts to sensory stimuli differently, and he undergoes therapy to help him cope with these stimuli.
I met Mason one morning during his hippotherapy session at Chastain Horse Park. Having met his therapist Brent on a previous assignment for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, I had originally thought about working on a story about hippotherapy — but after I met Mason, I wanted to know more about him.
Mason’s mother Carol is an occupational therapist, and she was very open and candid about her son and the disorder. She let me follow Mason for another hippotherapy session, and then for an occupational therapy session in their house. On my fourth visit with Mason, I spent the entire day with him — all the way up to bedtime.
Everyone was wonderful while I was working on the story. Brent, Carol, Carol’s husband Michael, their nanny and the various therapists were incredibly helpful, and Mason himself was great. I’m used to photographing kids who are so camera-conscious that it’s almost impossible to work with them. But Mason, who was at first a bit camera-shy, gradually warmed to me. By the fourth and final day, I was both his playmate and a wallflower photojournalist, and I could easily slip back and forth between the two.
And everyone was wonderful after I was done making pictures. I had a lot of help and input from various members of the AJC photo department, as well as from a few friends and professors when I went back to Missouri the next week.
Then I put the story on the shelf for a month before I looked at it again for the final edit.
As you can imagine, I had to drown a lot of puppies — or, cut out a lot of photos that I loved but knew wouldn’t fit in the story. (Unfortunately, all the hippotherapy photos were drowned and out of the final edit.) But I just may blog a few of those puppies, over the next few days.
In the meantime, take a look at the story! I’d love to hear what you think.