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An article about my photography


Well-Known Member
V.I.P Member
I was asked recently to write an article for a local Autism newsletter, thought it might interest some of you... Here it is

The question that was asked of me to write this article was – “Does your photography have any connection to or impact on you as an autistic individual?” I’m not sure how to answer that, because I was already at a fairly high level of photography at the time of my diagnosis in 2020, and I really haven’t changed my approach that much since then.

I started doing photography in 2005, long before I had any sense of an autism diagnosis. After a suggestion from a friend, I self-tested in 2017. I then got an official diagnosis in 2020 (Level 1 autism, no ADHD).

On the flip side, did my undiagnosed autism contribute to my photography back in 2005? Very likely. To add more fuel to the fire, starting in 2007 most of my photography became urban-based, part of a genre called street photography. For those who don’t know, it involves photographing people you don’t know, either as a candid photo or a stranger portrait. I’m far from the only person doing that, but in Alberta, most photographers tend to do landscape and nature. And yes, it takes guts to aim your camera towards someone else. A landscape doesn’t talk back to you. However, a grizzly bear might, which is why there are very long zoom lenses.

I’m sure many of you are shaking in your boots about the idea of interacting with other people, especially people you don’t know. I’m not certain what inspired me back in 2007. All I know is that I just started doing street photography back then, and have never stopped doing it all these years later.

Today, for example, March 16, a very warm late winter day, I went for a long walk around Calgary when I probably should have been working on this article. I logged 16,511 steps exploring Kensington and the nearby Bow River pathway, took a few photos (135 of them to be exact), and met a few people along the way. I love doing stranger portraits and just chatting with them.

Part of the answer for me is that I am a flâneur, someone who simply goes for walks. Historically, flâneurs go for walks in urban settings, most often on their own. It’s an old term, rarely used anymore.

A connection to autism? I have an incredible focus and a very strong visual sense, which I believe many autistic people have. I’m not sure I ever really turn my brain off, which can be good or bad, and can sometimes drive me a little crazy. Or is that strong visual sense something that other neurotypical photographers have too? I’m not sure I know the answer.

I have a strong sense of routine within my photography, something that could be an autistic trait. Since 2007, I have walked up and down Stephen Avenue many times, at least once a month if not more often. My thinking is that every time I walk up and down that street – even within the same day – there is always a different scene. Very much a repetitive task, of sorts, that many autistic people do well.

Those stranger portraits I mentioned above? I’m not sure what the answer is. I think that with my strong visual sense and observation skills, I look for interesting people, in particular where they are sitting and what they are doing. The camera lens acts as a buffer, a reason to interact with someone. And once I have that permission from the person, I enjoy hearing their stories.

Does any of this sound autistic? You can decide.

A couple more thoughts about creativity in general. Elizabeth Gilbert has written an excellent book about being creative, called Big Magic, which is where I got the concept of curiosity from. Simply being curious about the world around you, or what you could do with a creative idea. For me, that idea becomes a way I explore the world around me, even in the same place I have walked many different times.

As I walk around with my camera, I am always scanning for where there is energy from other people. If I see that, I will try to capture it. Is curiosity and exploring an autistic thing? You can decide. Meantime, below are three different photos I took on March 16 as I went on a long walk.

Autism Article 01.jpg
Autism Article 02.jpg
Autism Article 03.jpg
Visual interesting photos, like you grabbed a nugget of precious time and captured it to share.
Visual interesting photos, like you grabbed a nugget of precious time and captured it to share.

Thanks... I had to cut and paste the text, those are the three photos I included with the article, so I attached them separately here on the forum
I didn't read it tbh, but I like your work. It has a down to earth quality missing from much I see. The last photo is especially charming.
I love your article and I am annoyed that it is not available on their site outside of the newsletter. I am writing them to ask them to please make this sort of thing available on their site as features like this should always be viewable online.

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