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Washington Voices

Fourth-grader sells books of his own photos to benefit other kids

Thu., March 12, 2009

His big brown eyes seem to find beauty in things others may miss: a glistening arc of water from an outdoor fountain, the ghostly whisper of winter fog along a lakefront. With camera in hand, 10-year-old Jonas LaPier captures pictures of poetic splendor.

The Liberty Lake fourth-grader has self-published two collections of his photos. The first book, “Through the Eyes of a Child: A Photo Journal of the World Around Us,” features artistic landscapes. Jonas prefers not to include people in his photos. “They ruin the picture,” he said with an eloquent shrug.

The second collection, “Through the Eyes of a Child: Photographic Alphabet Book,” is a collaboration with Jonas’ 5-year-old brother, Ansel.

Each photo corresponds with a letter from the alphabet. The book has been so popular that Jonas is hoping to do a number book next.

The reason for the books is simple. “I wanted to share my work,” he said.

However, he shares more than his work. The proceeds from the sales of his books, prints and other items go to Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center Children’s Hospital. Kevin Benson, Sacred Heart’s director of annual giving and special events, said he’s been amazed by the quality of Jonas’ work and by his desire to help others.

“I think Jonas is a person of unique depth for a 10-year-old,” Benson said.

“My brother was born there,” Jonas said, explaining why he wanted to raise funds for the Children’s Hospital. Ansel spent a week in the neonatal intensive care unit, and visits to the hospital left an impression on Jonas.

His interest in photography was sparked when he was in first grade by Reflections, a national PTA cultural arts competition.

“I wanted to enter it,” Jonas said.

Students can submit entries in any or all of six categories, including photography.

The budding photographer found inspiration at his family’s cabin on Horseshoe Lake.

“I took pictures around the lake,” he said, including photos snapped from their canoe. “I just took pictures of everything.”

His entry won the statewide competition, and Jonas hasn’t looked back. When asked if he’s had any instruction, he shook his head and said, “No classes, just my books.”

When his family vacationed in Yellowstone National Park, he went on a photo safari with a resident photographer – a service offered by the park. “I took 600 pictures,” he said.

Other family outings provided more opportunity to explore the world through a camera lens. On a trip to Pacific Beach State Park north of Ocean Shores, his mother, Tanya LaPier, accompanied him on a shooting expedition.

“He was on his stomach taking all these crazy shots,” she said. “We climbed a hill …”

“No, it was a small mountain,” Jonas interrupted.

His mother laughed. “He took pictures from every angle.”

“I was looking for creative shots,” he explained. He said he knows when he’s found a good shot, “because I haven’t seen it before.”

Though Jonas said Ansel Adams is his hero and he wants to be a photographer when he grows up, he does have other interests.

“I play basketball,” he said, “and I like expository writing.”

Jonas books are sold at Great Harvest Bread Co. in Liberty Lake and through his Web site. According to his mother, Jonas has always had an entrepreneurial sprit.

“Jonas has been intrigued with selling things from a young age,” she said.

In addition to the books, he now offers greeting cards, mouse pads and other items featuring his photos. Fittingly, the funds raised through the sale of his work are used to buy art supplies for the Children’s Hospital.

He’s made a fan of Sacred Heart’s Kevin Benson.

“I think it’s pretty amazing to have someone as young as Jonas step up and say, ‘I want to make a difference in my community.’ We’re excited to continue working with him,” he said.

Cindy Hval can be reached at

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