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July Artist Spotlight: Q&A with J.P. Henry & Jane Ward

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Cecil County Arts Council: How did you get into photography?

J.P. Henry: Using the phone.

Jane Ward: J.P. was taking in all the grandeur while driving and sightseeing in Alaska and said to Jane, “I think I want to take a picture.” Jane set the camera up and J.P. took a picture from inside the car. He has always been observant and asked mom to take pictures of this or that in their travels, but never wanted to do it himself, until that moment in 2017. When J.P. decides he has had enough he says, “I’m done with that” but Jane hopes his interest in photography will continue to flourish.

“When you are a mom of an adult autistic child, you look for those minute possibilities that you can seize on and run with, and I knew that was one … because he was ready for it.”

J.P. is learning to alter pictures by cropping or changing color saturation with the help of his mom. He has an eye for composition and is learning to “take it further.” Photography has helped J.P. to grow and to become more socialized.

CCAC: Do you have rules you follow when taking pictures?

JW: The first picture that J.P. ever took was while he was on vacation and it became a self-imposed rule: photos must be taken while traveling because it felt “safe” to him with his autism.

Next, Jane made taking pictures into a fun, mother-son contest by having each of them take pictures around their farm (of the exact same thing). The contest continued while they were out driving. The rule was that you could not be more than 100 feet from the car and no people could be in the photo.

J.P. learned that you always have to be ready. While in Alaska, a black bear came out of the woods near where they were standing. J.P.’s first thought was that it might have been a big black wolf and, when he whispered, “Give me the camera,” Jane knew he was hooked on photography.

CCAC: What is your favorite thing to photograph?

JPH: Usually animals that I am looking at, wild animals.

JW: I like photographing children, spontaneous moment shots. J.P. really likes cloud and sky shots. They are currently working on documenting clouds as J.P. has recently noticed now that clouds can look like things.

CCAC: What do you like about taking pictures?

JPH: Kind of neat and amazing looking for and finding them.

JW: J.P. does well taking pictures by himself, sometimes he will walk away from mom and look for shots he finds interesting to photograph and waiting for the moment to be just right.

CCAC: What is something that you do not enjoy about photography?

JPH: Sometimes I don’t want to.

JW: J.P. is not always in favor of mom trying to teach him different holding positions when taking pictures. There are even times when J.P. just wants to push the button but not hold the camera. He’s learning about a cellphone telephoto lens and to ask permission to take photos if people are going to be in the shot.

CCAC: What was your favorite part of preparing for your exhibition?

JW: This has been constant preparation. Every time we came up to the gallery, it was more interaction with people and a growth opportunity for him. Bringing the photos into the arts council and seeing where they can fit on the wall and learning about categorizing and deciphering his photo groupings was an experience. He has made a “craziness” category that includes animals looking silly or things he feels are humorous. Humor is not an emotion he used to ever show, but has come out since he started taking pictures.

J.P. is hoping that someone will buy one of his pictures which he will gladly autograph. He is excited for the music that will play during the reception because he specifically selected each song.

CCAC: What is your favorite picture?

JW: J.P.’s favorite picture is one that his mom took of him and the wolf. He was very brave standing next to the wolf and the wolf even licked his face (and he was OK with that).

Jane’s favorite picture is one she took of J.P. with his hands in the air on rocks in Northern Ireland, which is where Jane’s grandmother was from. It was the first time she had him put his hands in the air. She also favors a silhouette she took of J.P. at the beach in Assateague, Va.

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