Settling In.

Added on by Carolyn Van Houten.

Four days after starting at the Chicago Tribune, I left for New York City to see my documentary on autism, World Within Our Own, be shown at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  Then I flew to San Francisco for the Hearst National Journalism Awards photojournalism competition, so it was very difficult to settle in and find a rhythm in my internship.  Now I am back and am so happy to be shooting and in my groove again.

The first photo is of the Elisapana family, who immigrated to Chicago from Sudan.  I photographed them before I left on my epic adventures.  At the time I had been assigned a Sox v. Cubs game, a food truck feature, and the long weekend of track that I last blogged about.  Although those were all fun and exciting, I was extremely relieved to be handed a name and an Oak Park address with the instructions to make a few portraits and find the story.  I pulled up to their lovely home and knocked on the door.  Kenneth answered the door and greeted me like we had been close friends for years.  It was a wonderful sight.  I took the more classic portrait that the paper wanted; however, since I was about to go off the clock and did not have any other assignments, I asked to stick around with the family for a few more minutes.  Kenneth told me tragically beautiful stories of Sudan and his transition to America, while I photographed quiet, intimate moments with his family.  I cannot wait to go back when they have their  Sudanese community celebration.  Kenneth wants me to experience traditional Sudanese cuisine and meet the people his philanthropic work has been aiding.  Finding that connection with my subjects and having the time to absorb their knowledge and history reminded me why it is I do this job.  Its not for backstage access to shows, or seats within reach of Cub's players, or even for the pictures.  The people we meet make this job what it is.  

Judy Elisapana loves on her two-year-old daughter, Rachel.  Kenneth Elisapana came to the U.S. from Sudan with his wife, Judy, who is from Kenya.  They reach out to new Sudanese immigrants, trying to give them resources, help them find employment, and welcome them into the Sudanese community in Oak Park.

Judy Elisapana loves on her two-year-old daughter, Rachel.  Kenneth Elisapana came to the U.S. from Sudan with his wife, Judy, who is from Kenya.  They reach out to new Sudanese immigrants, trying to give them resources, help them find employment, and welcome them into the Sudanese community in Oak Park.

As many of you know, I have a deep passion for those with autism.  I am constantly drawn to stories about the issue and the families who are affected by it.  Perhaps it is because they often see and communicate through images much as I do or perhaps it is because when I am with them I can explore a whole new world through their eyes, whether that world is blissful or frightening.  

Anyway, yesterday I received an assignment to photograph children with autism using a computer program that helps teach them social skills.  When I received the assignment, I cannot express how excited I was to meet these children and be surrounded by that energy once more.  Photographing them felt like being at home again.  There was no thought or calculation, making images was just a natural flow.  I left that classroom the happiest I have been since I got to Chicago.  Hopefully I will get to see Jacob Ciupe again soon. 

Jacob Ciupe, a nine-year-old with high-functioning autism, plays a balloon game with his classmates at the Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center on Thursday, June 13, 2013.  The classroom uses a computer program that helps children with autism to learn social skills.

Jacob Ciupe, a nine-year-old with high-functioning autism, plays a balloon game with his classmates at the Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center on Thursday, June 13, 2013.  The classroom uses a computer program that helps children with autism to learn social skills.

The Kelly High School girl's varsity soccer team is composed of almost all first-generation Mexican-Americans.  Many of the girls would sneak out of their homes at 4 am to practice with their team, because their parents wouldn't allow them to play.  The girls welcomed me with open arms, offered their jackets to cover my gear in the downpour, and invited me to their banquet on Tuesday (which I really hope I can make!).  Each of them was so inspirational, strong and confident.  When I was about to leave, their coach asked me to give them a few little parting words of wisdom about going to college and growing up.  As I thought of what to say, I realized that they should probably be the ones teaching me.  

I couldn't help but show a few photos of these beautiful girls doing what they love most.  Roll your mouse over the images for caption information.