Photographers Do Not Always Have To Take The Photos – Learning From Collaborating With Others On The Photo Essay – Autism: Out Of The Box

Developing an idea and a plan

The idea to create the project came to me a couple of months ago. I saw a film with an autistic lead character and was aware that film and TV tend to focus on savants rather than a more representative view of autism.

This led me to consider what I thought I knew about autism, and I thought that perhaps my views were influenced by the media rather than from autistic people.

It would have been so easy to read diagnostic criteria and symptoms, but people are not symptoms, and people matter.

I developed a plan to research the experiences of autistic people on-line, on YouTube, and by inviting autistics to help me.

I made the decision that photographers don’t have to take photos to tell people’s stories and decided to invite photographic input from those with autism. I set the title as Autism: Out Of The Box in order to highlight my belief that when we label people medically we dehumanise them and stop seeing the person. This essay was about seeing the individual.

After completing Assignment One my tutor suggested that I research the work of photographer Anthony Luvera, and how he supported homeless people to create a self-portrait. I wasn’t in the position to meet with autistic people and I decided to find away to invite people to send a photo to me that represented an aspect of living with autism. I would then research and write the essay and work that around my collaborators photos. I also asked if they could write around 50 words to say something of the photo or their experience.

Learning Points

Drop all prior knowledge and ideas, my ideas don’t represent others.

Start from a position of wanting to learn and not express.

Develop a clear plan so that I can communicate clearly.

Ensure collaborators can improve and develop the plan.

Find a primary source for connecting with those you want to represent.

Find a primary source of information.

Be willing to change terminology (I say that I’m a person with anxiety and depression.  Autistic people on the whole prefer not to use “person with autism”. They view autism as being something that defines them. I was asked whether I would say “I’m a person with maleness”. With this in mind I was asked to uses the terms autistics and autistic people.

Apologise to people who did not want to be approached. I gained consent to approach people from Actually Autistic Blogs List (thankyou Judy), so I approached people who had no idea I was going to approach them. This was successful on the whole, but one apology was required.

Send the finished article for collaborators to review, and re-write according to their feedback and criticism.

Make sure that you spell people’s names properly and ask if they have a site or blog so that I could link to them.

Reference collaborators as co-authors.

Be clear about where the finished article will be published.

Clear communication with publisher to ensure photos and links are in the right place.

I only display a link to my publisher, they are kind enough to publish my submission, they deserve my viewers to read their magazine  (respect).

Do not develop other people’s photos or art. It’s their intellectual property and they have the right to have their work presented as it is. To include their writing in a manner that kept the article neat I did need to take their photos into Photoshop, change the canvas size and add a border.

I love making photography, but photographers do not always need to take photos in order to represent others. I think this is why I use the term “Sociological photography” rather than documentary photography. I want to be able to help others represent themselves.

This project worked. My co-authors and I worked together so that we could tell a personal story about autism that put autistic people first.

One Reply to “Photographers Do Not Always Have To Take The Photos – Learning From Collaborating With Others On The Photo Essay – Autism: Out Of The Box”

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