Monday, 11 April 2011

The Most Beautiful Smile

Ben                                         Summer '07

I took this photograph of my son, Ben, in the summer following his seventh birthday. To the outside world it is just a photo of a young boy looking happy and carefree, full of hope and potential. I know a different story though, which makes this image very poignant. Following months of stress and anguish we had removed Ben from school in the January of that year. He had been struggling with the socialisation side of life at school and had become increasingly distressed, followed by a deep depression. It seemed possible that Ben could be suffering from an autistic spectrum disorder and this would explain the difficulties he was experiencing.

Context is everything. I hadn’t seen Ben smile or laugh for nearly a year and our GP was becoming concerned at his mental health. We had been home-educating him for almost six months and he was starting to look like our son again but a smile was still elusive. Then, whilst I was taking a photo of our daughter, the sun came out, literally and metaphorically, and a tentative smile spread across Ben’s face. I wanted to scoop him up and hug him, but I was conscious it could have a detrimental effect on this first step back to normality. For me, this is the most beautiful smile I have ever seen.

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