Friday, May 31, 2013

Autism Week On Lenscratch

Aline Smithson's popular blog LENSCRATCH is devoted this past week to photographs about Autism.
A sub-genre I never would have predicted defining itself, it is here and it's most likely not going away.
Featuring the work of Bruce Hall, Charles Mintz, Reathel Geary and myself. Not wanting to steal the thunder of LENSCRATCH, I'll let her showcase the work of these photographers. It's all great stuff to be found at the links below.
For me, ECHOLILIA has almost become the neighborhood kid I let play at the house and then next thing you know he is a teenageer living in the basement. The project certainly has a life of it's own that goes beyond anything I see in the work at this point. It's almost become simply a phenomena that I observe from the distance. I'm older, Eli is older and the world has turned.
Aline Smithson asked for an essay that didn't really introduce the project, but something that reflected on it. I wanted to share the essay here:


ECHOLILIA ended up being the project, as clich├ęd as it sounds, that literally changed everything for me. In some ways good, some ways not so good. But it did begin a domino effect that is still tumbling to this day.

A collection of photographs I worked on collaboratively with my son and all shot in our home, these simple photographs were raw and primitive. They reminded me of a beginning student’s photo project: simple props, window lighting, just a Dad making photographs with his son in this quiet child mindset. The results seemed to be photographs made out of nothing except the ability to pay attention and listen to someone else.

The results didn’t look like my photographs as all. But being the greedy artist I am, always looking for something new, I immediately took credit for these unusual looking images.

Being a photographer with contacts in the magazine and newspaper world, I was able to get this body of work in front of magazine photo editors with a brief introduction to our process, as well as my reluctant use of the word “Autism”, a term I was wary to admit to in the beginning. The internet sends messages to an unprecedented audience these days. As the series was published, I began receiving notes from parents as well as the kids themselves, from around the world, telling me that they are seeing their son, or themselves, in this series of photographs. Parents sent me snapshots of their kids that could have easily fit into the pages of my project: the notes, the body language, the in-door nudity, the hyper focus on an everyday object…parents around the world were snapping photographs of their autistic kid’s obsessions and behaviors. This was part of the process of trying to figure their kids out. It occurred to me then that I really had done nothing new with this project. I simply was doing what any parent would do, but I had an eye for good light and possibly a better camera.

Eli and I stopped photographing ECHOLILIA when we realized we were done. We had nothing left to discover together with photography…we had built a bridge of sorts and didn’t really need this tool anymore. My current series “Stereoscopy Photographs” looks at his brother’s role in the family, and how he has to navigate with this larger than life older brother that is tuned differently than he. Eli appears in this project at times, but this time it’s different. I’m no longer working with him. We did that already. At this point if he appears, I’m simply looking at him, as any parent would look at their kid. Just a photograph, nothing more. We don’t have to be digging for something. We can just be.

Tune into Autism Week on Lenscratch:

BRUCE HALL : Jack Knows Water

Reathel Geary : Waiting for Griffin

Charles Mintz : The Album Project

Timothy Archibald : ECHOLILIA and Stereoscopy Photographs


1 comment:

M said...

That is a gorgeous and eloquent reflection essay, sir. It really adds depth to an already profound story of images. You are so gifted. I hope your family is well.