Photographing Autism

How do you photograph something that remains a mystery? How do you tell a story without showing the main characters? These were my challenges as I walked into Rimland Services, an organization that provides care for people with autism. I was legally prohibited from showing faces of the residents. This forced me to intentionally block faces, shoot from behind, and physically move against my instincts. What I saw were the faces of the staff, volunteers, and caregivers - faces that revealed genuine love and compassion in an environment where those things that typically divide us - gender, race, age, physical or mental ability - didn't exist. The act of photography for me is an ongoing exercise in living in the present moment and simultaneously outside my comfort zone. At Rimland, this awareness intensified, such that the first two hours felt like four. But the staff welcomed me instantly, and I adjusted by observing their patient demeanor with the residents, their strength tempered by warmth and kindness. They allowed me the gift of seeing the world through their eyes, and I hope I captured and represented it adequately.    

All photos © Copyright 2015 by Elliot Mandel. All rights reserved.