Atlanta photographers Regis and Kahran Bethencourt think of themselves as “dream makers.”
That’s because the couple makes kids’ wildest dreams come true in portrait shoots. The results are conceptual, highly stylized photos of children dressed as visions plucked straight from their imaginations.
The Bethencourts hope the portraits transcend the typical images of beauty.
“We get so many amazing ideas,” Kahran told NPR’s Morning Edition.
Jhene Santana Brown, 15, a client from Providence, R.I., wanted to become a fairytale lion.
“I just loved lions and my favorite movie is Narnia,” Brown said. “So I wanted it to be fierce but also soft and kind.”
Twelve-year-old Whitcliff McKnight, a client from Smyrna, Ga., had a session that involved three distinct costumes. The inspiration: “renaissance man.” That’s what his mom calls him.
“The first [portrait] comes from my love of travel and foreign languages and the arts,” McKnight said. “The athlete theme comes from the sports I play, including soccer and basketball. And the futuristic type of theme comes from my love of video games.”
Mermaid: Alaya Barton
The shoots are affirming, says Dr. Terica Barton of Tampa, Fla, whose 8-year-old daughter, Alaya, transformed into an underwater mermaid for her portrait.
“I think it’s absolutely important for little African American children and children of all races just because it shows them and highlights their beauty, it highlights their difference,” Barton said. “And sometimes it’s difficult in this country raising children that aren’t the majority and instilling in them the beauty and their differences and making them celebrate their differences and their culture.”
General: D'Zion Thompson
(left to right) Drummer: Evan “Jazz” Wright Futuristic Girl: Raine Douglas Futuristic Girl: Legend Pearl
Albinism Awareness Activist: Ava Clarke
That beauty is encapsulated in Glory: Magical Visions of Black Beauty, which features more than 100 photographs.
“We really wanted to shatter the conventional standards of beauty for Black kids. We highlighted a variety of kids across the African diaspora,” Kahran said. “We bring to life past, present and future visions of Black culture.”
Each child in the book has their own unique backstory: an 8-year-old who is already a neuroscience expert, a 10-year-old DJ and a little girl who learned to read at the age of 1.
Activist: Trinity Simone
Baroque Princess: Zoe Polley-Flowers Dolls: Naija Alcantra & Aileen Vasquez Lion’s Mane: Farouk James
Futuristic Girl: Nevaeh Camara
Cajun Barbie: Koryn Moore Reading Doll: Nailah Stallworth Little Miss Flint: Mari Copeny
Pilot: Aa'Zion Dawkins
“We were noticing all these kids that we were running across on a daily basis who just didn’t have the platform,” Kahran said. “And so we definitely want to be able to use our platform to highlight them and highlight their excellence and highlight everything that they’re doing so that the world can see kind of this Black excellence on display.”
And that is, simply put, Regis says, “being yourself unapologetically.”