Bright Lights and Even Brighter Smiles

 In News

By: Ian Johns (Ian Johns Photography,

The music was loud. The lights were bright. There was enough laughter to go on for days. Everyone arrived excited and left happy and uplifted. That sounds like people were getting headshots taken, right?

This description fits the bill when you’re talking about headshot and portrait clinics for Changing the Face of Beauty, a non-profit organization that encourages private and mainstream commercial retailers to include the disability community in their advertising campaigns with the use of inclusive imagery.

I had already known a bit about this incredible organization through Susie Tapley, who, along with her husband, Andrew, have been passionate supporters of the Down Syndrome Clinic and Heart Center at Boston Children’s Hospital since their second child, Mae, was diagnosed with Down syndrome after her birth a few years ago. Since then, they have worked tirelessly to increase awareness for Down Syndrome, all while raising money for the hospital. A collaboration between the Tapleys and Changing the Face of Beauty became a perfect fit.

Last year, Susie wanted to assemble a headshot clinic in Boston for the organization and contacted me as one of the lucky photographers to be a part of the big event. I knew right away that it was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up.

As a professional headshot photographer, I work with corporate types looking to elevate their personal brands with headshots that show off their unique personalities. Capturing the expressions of people that highlight who they are authentically can be challenging, but fun in the same light.

Photographing headshots for a Changing the Face of Beauty clinic presented a new avenue that I couldn’t wait to experience. I have become so tuned into pulling expressions out of adults, let’s do the same with kids.

I’ll go ahead and skip the suspense. These kids brought every ounce of energy they had to my headshot set. The recipe was simple: turn on some bright lights and sprinkle the room with today’s hottest music and that was all we needed to let their expressions come alive! Now, I love a good challenge, but on this day all I had to do was press a button as we watched every golden moment appear in front of my camera.

There was plenty of dancing. A few of the kids unveiled poses they had worked on in the days leading up to the event. A couple of others needed some encouragement from their parents, but seconds later their faces lit up with toothy grins that shined brighter than the lights themselves. To say they made my job easy that day would be an early candidate for Understatement of the Year.

One of the most compelling things about photography is reliving the memories when viewing photos. All of the feelings and emotions you had in that split second come alive again. With the endless buffet of on-demand videos served to us through our televisions, computers, and smartphones, the world of still photography finds a way to harness the power of our minds to transport us back in time. And every time I review the photos from the Changing the Face of Beauty event, it warms my heart knowing I was privileged enough to help bring happiness and joy to those who attended the clinic and to enact positive change in the media and advertising industries.

If an opportunity comes along where you can take part in a local headshot clinic for Changing the Face of Beauty, either as a photographer or volunteer, you should do it. The experience is something you will always remember.

These clinics remind the talent industry that it is not ok to continue to ignore the largest minority in the world. If you would like to donate to or host a clinic, you can contact us at [email protected].

Showing 25 comments
  • Kara Massengale

    Come to Atlanta, GA or Chattanooga, TN!

  • Carly Ross

    We have a VERY large community in southeastern Massachusetts. I am on the board of a nonprofit parent/community support group called 21FrienDS, we currently support over 200 families across our region. We would LOVE to work with you and our families.

  • Angela snyder

    Daneport, Iowa City, or Des Moines, iowa! 🙂

  • Shawntel Johnson

    What do I need to do to enroll? Is there an age requirement?

  • Lee luciano

    Please come to Norwich Ct? we are 5 minutes away from Mohegan sun casino maybe you can work wit( them to have a wonderful photo shoot.
    Lee Luciano

  • Nina Fuller

    From Boston to southern Indiana? Are you going to be scheduling the mid-west in 2018? SMILE on Down Syndrome is interested in discussing a potential partnership here in southwest Indiana. We have families from Indiana, Kentucky and Illinois that would love to participate in Changing the Face of Beauty! Feel free to check us out on FB at SMILE Mile, which is our public page. We also have a closed group page for parents and close friends at SMILE on Down Syndrome page. Feel free to ask to join the closed group and respond to the question that asks why are you interested in joining the closed group. You can reply that you are with CTFOB 🙂 Thank you – Nina Fuller, Founder/Director

  • Dionne Carpenter

    My twin girls with DS and i would love for you to cone to Boonville,NY!!! Please, please, please!!

  • Wendy

    Let us know when you’re in Illinois ?

  • Jamie Kelly

    Yes! We would love to have you in north Atlanta, GA….. We are in the Cumming, ga area and have a large special needs population due to the amazing work our school system in Forsyth County has for children like mine!

  • Lisa Duke

    Please come to TULSA !!!

  • Angie Brooks Moore

    Please come to Lebanon, Tn. We have an awsome community of individuals with something extra they are ready to share with your Clinic and the world.

  • Tosha

    I would love to be the photographer in Birmingham, Ala

  • Jaime Nettles

    Would love for you to come to Charleston, SC!

  • Almetha Maillard

    It would be awesome for changing the face of beauty to come to Sullivan County.

  • Michelle Lelievre

    Love love this. Beautiful children beautiful hearts !!!!

  • Kelly

    So inspirational! Would love to have you meet our son Tommy in NJ, NY, PA area! Tommy has Angelman Syndrome and loves the camera! ❤️?

  • Lauren

    Please consider Tallahassee, FL

  • Charlotte

    Please, please, please come to Austin, TX! We have a large and very active Special Needs group here with beautiful kiddos inside and out, and you will leave with some amazing photos and an uplifting experience! This is also where Ruby’s Rainbow started, which is a nonprofit that awards scholarships to individuals with Down syndrome to attend post secondary programs and trade schools.

  • Kelley Robinson

    With 5 children who have special needs, all of them gorgeous, it would be wonderful if y’all could come to Augusta, Ga.

  • Jessica Parsons

    We would love for this to happen in Santa Barbara, CA! Beautiful photos! <3

  • Rosemary

    Come to the Rio grande valley in Texas
    Our community has grown over the five years we have over 200 families

  • Beth Clark

    Much needed awareness in NC. Check out my daughter’s page…”Lily Supporters”

  • Valorie Ebie

    How about the Heartland? Wichita, KS?

  • Lara Tillman

    Bella Vista Arkansas!

  • Angela Acuncius

    Would live to see you cone to peru, IL. We are north central illinois, only an hour from chicago!!!

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