Cortney Lang is a professional newborn and family photographer based in Argyle, Texas. With almost 12 years of photography experience, Cortney frequently finds peace when looking through her lens. Although her affinity for photography has brought her a lot of joy, Cortney has never attempted to push the hobby on any of her four children, and instead allows them to explore what brings joy to them.
Cortney’s oldest, Bentley, is a “bubbly, strong-willed, determined, and stubborn” 11-year-old who falls on the autism spectrum. Though Cortney describes Bentley as having “the biggest heart with an old soul,” he would sometimes struggle with ways to ease his mind during times of anxiety. Cortney and her husband, Casey, have tried introducing Bentley to a variety of hobbies from sports to music, yet nothing soothed him. “Nothing could ever bring him the comfort his little brain needed,” Cortney explained to PetaPixel.
It wasn’t until Bentley got his first cell phone that his parents began to notice an unexpected interest of his. During long, family hikes, Cortney became aware that Bentley was continuously stopping along the way to take nature photos with his phone camera. He would examine his work in awe, taking in the beauty of the photo for minutes at a time before promptly taking another. This is when Cortney was sparked with the idea that photography might not only be something she and her son can bond over, but a hobby that will bring Bentley joy and put his mind at ease.
After some time of Bentley showing a continued interest in photography, Cortney and Casey bought him his first camera. Cortney mentions that she didn’t even need to teach Bentley, as he took the camera by storm and asked all the right questions. He started using the family iPad to edit his photos through Lightroom. Cortney saw this as her opportunity to let Bentley express himself fully, without her influence on editing style.
“With Bentley, he couldn’t internally figure out how to process the emotions he was feeling,” Cortney explained. “Photography changed all of that. I can read his emotions by how he edits and what flowers he chooses to photograph on any given day. It helps me communicate with him: he edits darker and moody, I know he has some negative feelings and we are able to talk about them.”
Communication has always been a bit more difficult for Bentley, and Cortney expressed that she felt distance between herself and her son because of this. By using photography as a shared language between them, Cortney can feel their bond growing every day. Since Bentley has autism, he processes the world around him differently than his neurotypical family. Although many obstacles that come with being a young boy on the spectrum don’t vanish with his new-found hobby, this interest in photography has provided Bentley with an entirely new way of communicating.
Inspired by her son’s passion, and determined to prove to him that his talent is legitimate and not just positive affirmations from his loving mom, Cortney created a photography Instagram account for Bentley. The pair run the account together, showcasing Bentley’s incredible talent and creating humorous captions. Despite having minimal experience working with a camera and editing tools, Bentley is already producing professional-level photos. He’ll need to continue working at his craft and perfecting his skills to achieve one of his biggest dreams: shooting for National Geographic.
“He is a joy, and I am thankful to be his mama,” Cortney gushed. “I feel blessed that he has started to find his emotional voice through his camera. We are so proud of him, there aren’t even the right words for how amazing he is.”Whizzco