Photography and the Visual Particularities of Young People on the Autism Spectrum
Photographs are created, recreated and shared extensively and repeatedly, suggesting that people have little choice but to look at them. Nonetheless, the diverse ways of seeing in contemporary visual culture entail different visions, experiences and practices of visuality. This article suggests autistic people approach photography in their own ways to visually express their everyday lives. While sensory experiences differ in autistic individuals, they appear to embody visuality with their sensory modalities, using primarily their vision, but also their kinaesthetic experience and proprioceptive awareness to photograph the world around them.
Drawing from findings from an empirical study on the photographic practices of young people on the autism spectrum, this paper discusses how two participants use photography to capture the ways they see the world. Photography provides a context in which individuals can illustrate their visual experiences, and specific and diverse social and personal realities. The medium encourages them to make, use and discuss their own photographs, which, in turn, generates thoughts of lived experiences on which they may otherwise never reflect. While offering new insights into how photography mediates autistic individuals’ sensory perceptions of their visual world, this paper will further consider the contributions photography makes to the everyday lives of autistic people.