Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Letters To The Editor

If you do a project and it gets in National Geographic, the audience it hits is massive. Not just people in the world of photography, but Moms and Dads and teachers and students and doctors and friends of friends finding it in supermarkets and waiting rooms and on and on and on. ECHOLILIA was in the November issue and the letters came in from all angles all month. I'm used to people not liking what I'm up to, so criticism is really always part of the bargain...and that is there for sure. Curiously the high school photo students have grabbed onto it and embraced it and shared it in their Tumblr world...and that felt good to see that spread around. Screenshot above from Cheers, Butterfly by Sam.

But in fairness, here is a collection from the mailbag:


I work as a behavior therapist and when I saw this photos you took of your son, it was very disturbing. Don't you wonder what these photos will do for him in the future?

Being a behavior analyst, we all who have seen these photos find it appalling that you would even consider taking these photos.

Bernice D-----


Mr. Archibald-

At kuala lumpur airport I am reading your article in photo journal coupled with Eli's photos. My heart goes out to you and am impressed by your courage and how you have managed to deal with the situation.

The one thing I didn't like maybe it is solely because I am a very sensitive person, is the fact that the photos are quite disturbing! Pliers in his mouth and his bare body... Another one where he is completely naked and in a plastic box was more disturbing than any amount of words can describe!

Where he has the vacuum cleaners hose next to his ear is appalling - again his chest is bare and he is laying on dirt... Am thinking any small insect can crawl up his neck, go in the ear... Bit his lip or ear....

I applaud however your confessing in the National Geographic and saying working with him, I find myself questioning boundaries! Am I his parent now or his collaborator?

I think enough with realizing and about time to act and do something about it! You are a parent first, and you honestly don't need a random reader to remind you that fact!


Hello Timothy

My name is Joshua and I stumbled across your website via a blog site. I'm an aspiring Photographer and not much work truly catches my eye but your set following your son is beautiful. I felt almost intrusive scrolling through such personal photographs.
To me, and I could be wrong, it felt as if this was your form of communication and understanding of one anothers lives and the connection between photographer, father and son is literally breathe taking. The way you capture each fragment of his life is amazing, thank you for sharing those.
Joshua J--------
Hello Mr. Archibald -

I just wanted to contact you and let you know how moved I was by your photographs. As soon as I saw the spread in National Geographic this month I went to your website and looked through the rest of the "echolilia" collection. The work is absolutely stunning in its composition and your relationship to and love for your son comes through in each print.

I am a college student currently studying autism spectrum disorders; I feel that "echolilia" has captured something about ASD and the family members of people with ASD that every other piece of writing - in the field or creative/personal writing - has not yet encapsulated for me. In addition to studying the disorder I have two cousins with ASD, and your work touched me on both a personal and intellectual level.

I've never been compelled to contact an artist before but I wanted to briefly share with you how deeply your photographs affected me.


Jessica L------


Tony Fouhse said...


(word verification to publish comment: crest)

Timothy Archibald said...

It's my favorite toothpaste...wow.

Max Hirshfeld said...

Bravo TA...so glad you are helping to prove how compelling photography can have an impact.

Timothy Archibald said...

Thanks Max. Of course I didn't plan any of this..it just happens and you roll with it, you know?

Moya McAllister said...

To anyone with a child on the autistic spectrum, the work speaks in full sentences. It may be disturbing to those who have no idea of the reality of autism, but I believe, if people would begin by trying to have an open mind, it would be clear.

The meaning behind what this project's development toward collaboration & communication between a parent & autistic child is not some commonplace relationship . It is a triumph.

colin pantall said...

I would question the behaviour analyst on exactly how these pictures would impact Eli? Has she got any case studies or evidence (anecdotal or otherwise) to back up her case? Are there any case studies whatsoever or is she extrapolating from other life events which are so different that it would put her professionalism and judgement in the spotlight.

Just wondering. Great reactions and they are overwhelmingly positive too - and from people who have shared your experience.

bird. said...

How dare you, TA! A vacuum, to his EAR?! Heresy...

The people that found your work appalling obviously missed the point (or maybe didn't read the article?). Although Bernice's comment seems the most negative (Be careful, Eli might become more creative in the years to come as a result of all your work together), I couldn't help but literally laugh out loud at the one from Anonymous. Reading deeper into his/her comment, I'd say someone has a little OCD, mixed with a strong phobia for anything entomological... and vacuums.

My real point is that all this feedback (good, bad, and ugly) is nothing but further reinforcement that what you and Eli did was successful. Aside from connecting in one of the most organic, natural ways possible (through the Arts), secondarily you've sparked an intense dialogue that, by now, is in the global venue. The last time I checked, that's what art is supposed to do.


Timothy Archibald said...

Thank you all. Really I welcome and respect everyone's opinion...each one is valid. I think the concern really is that these images may embarrass Eli down the road when he is older, or may become something he wishes he didn't participate in. And really, I can't say that isn't going to happen. It may...or something else may happen that we can't really forsee. With all of these things there is a risk...but it is a risk that for some reason I felt I should take.

B said...

Just saw the spread in NG myself and was really happy your work found such a wide audience. Congratulations.

The letters are fascinating. Good or bad, your work is obviously making an impact and that's the best we can hope for, no? Would love to read more.

Kate Wilhelm said...

I think it's a risk for anyone photographing their children that at some point the child(ren) will be unhappy with the images. Or perhaps it's for anyone publishing photographs of their children.

I remain such a huge fan of this work.

Timothy Archibald said...

Thank you Kate...good to hear from you again. Your points are well made. And...really the most challenging letter came in today...stay tuned.

Carrie said...

I also remain a huge fan of this work. My nephew has fairly severe ASD and inhabits a unique universe within the disorder that is hard for our family to comprehend. Your images help with that, truly and I find them compassionate, empathetic, and enlightening. Perhaps people are responding to their own discomfort with "otherness"--a subject who appears to be unlike them and their notions of what a "normal" child/childhood should look like.