KRISTINA BANT JENKINS
A passion for photography was ignited while modeling for some amazing photographers including Troy Plota and Walter Iooss. Kristina quickly realized that she much preferred being behind the camera taking the pictures. A few generous photographers shared bits of their knowledge, even saying, “Here, take a roll!” Kristina’s photos have since been featured in Us Magazine, People Magazine, Total Film Magazine, on Good Morning America, the Huffington Post, and the Daily Mail, among many others. On any given day, she finds joy in photographing the candid smiles of children that make parents’ hearts beam, or a celebrity for a new ad campaign. Among the many celebrities she has been thrilled to photograph are Smokey Robinson, Trisha Yearwood, Shawn Merriman, and Lou Diamond Phillips. Coming from USC School of Architecture, Kristina has returned to her roots photographing some wonderful architects and interior designers to capture what is on the forefront of current design.
“If you haven’t seen already, I’m a mom of an amazing little guy with autism.
While so much of our life revolves around autism, I also want everyone to see just how much like everyone else we are. I like to show the happiness and giggles, the triumphs over huge challenges, and most of all the personalities and beautiful faces that live with autism. So with that in mind, I am working on a project called, THISisAutism™, Life Through The Other Lens™.”
Kristina is now celebrating the simple joys, the twinkles in eyes, and the huge triumphs over enormous challenges, with her current project, THIS is AutismTM, Life Through the Other LensTM, designed to help broaden the world’s view of what it means to have and live with autism, through photography. Kristina is a funny and insightful writer and speaks publicly on her photography and on her experience as a mom of a little boy, who is “the coolest kid there is.” Kristina wrote, “Our children with autism hear more intensely, feel more intensely, and our parenting is also then more intense.”
“My eleven year old son, Charlie, was diagnosed with autism before his second birthday. To me, Charlie is everything in my life, my best little friend, and perfect! Early on in the autism journey, I would talk about my son and autism, and people immediately put that label on him, then identifying him with anything attributed to that label. I felt it already boxed him in. It hurt me to think that each individual with an autism spectrum diagnoses was already limited in people’s minds. When discussing a child on the autism spectrum, people say ‘this child is autistic.’ It’s just easier to say, and most accepted. When I talk about my child, or my child’s classmate, or friend also on the spectrum, I say, ‘He is funny, he is empathetic, he is sweet, he is a goof-ball and a flirt, he loves basketball, and music, he adores his grandfather… and he has autism.’ I want people to know our children for who they are as individuals first, people, children with souls and hearts. Not for their biggest struggle.”
Capitalizing on her unique experience on all sides of the camera, as a model, as a client, editor, and as photographer, Kristina understands exactly what goes into a photo. While photographing children, she puts kiddos at ease, pulling out their best expressions naturally. Years of behavioral training and simply living alongside autism has provided invaluable knowledge and endless patience. Kristina has an ability for entering the child‘s world, not asking a child to pose, but capturing that split-second of sparkle, wonder and awe, in a child’s face, truly sharing what makes each individual child shine!
“Because I am a photographer and one of my biggest circles is the autism community, I became the photographer of so many kiddos on the spectrum. I believe I have a knack for entering their world for a few minutes, I do that for all children! I prefer not to make them pose, per say, but more see what they bring me to. And this really works for kids with autism. I always then see a spark in their faces, a twinkle in their eyes, a joy come across them! This is what I love to capture! This is what I think makes that child shine and makes their parents love their photos; that smile or expression that they can’t easily capture on camera or explain to others. I love those precious faces and personalities. …THIS is Autism! I found myself saying this every time I showed one of those photos. Forget the diets, the debates, the controversies, even the therapies for a bit, let’s see who this beautiful child is as a little person… THIS is Autism!“
Kristina is a strong voice for what it means to parent a child on the spectrum, and her humor and positive outlook shine through in her writing and photography. For these efforts, Kristina was awarded the 2016 Single Mom’s Planet® Women with Vision Woman of the Year Award!