Despite it being a widely talked-about and discussed, there’s still much we don’t know or understand about Autism. We’re curious, that’s for sure. The success of the novel The Curious Incident of the Dog at Nighttime, as well as the play it inspired, tells us that people want to know.
However, it can be problematic, and borderline stereotyping, to have a book written out of the idea of what the author thinks is going on in the mind of someone on the spectrum. On the other hand, it’s refreshing to now have the opportunity to hear the perspective of people on the spectrum such as Naoki Higashida’s The Reason I Jump.
Timothy Archibald and his wife constantly faced questions and comments regarding their son Eli’s behavior. They knew he was unique, but it wasn’t until later on that they realized just how unique. Being a photographer, Archibald decided to try and bond with his son by taking pictures of him, which sprouted the project Echolilia.
“When he was 5, we began making photographs collaboratively as a way to find some common ground and attempt to understand each other. Soon after we began the project, Elijah was diagnosed on the autistic spectrum,” Archibald said when speaking to Time Magazine.
Though Archibald was expecting to just spend time with his son and find common ground, Eli’s one-of-a-kind perspective on the world around him became a central part of the project.
“Like most kids, you can’t really make Eli do something if he doesn’t want to. So he wasn’t very interested in being in the photo alone. But if he could collaborate, if he could suggest the pose, the idea the structure, then he was very much into it. That began our process,” the photographer commented during an interview with Austism Speaks.
Though Archibald admits that he has received accusations of using his son to garner attention, he says it’s a small price to pay to bring awareness, as well as send a message to other families who have member on the spectrum.
“Time and time again I get notes and photos from parents who really feel they see their kid in these photographs Eli and I made. They see the focus and the haze, the concentration and the dreamy, and seem to relate to the emotional struggle for the parent in the photos as well.”
“This is your child. He is born of nature, like everything around us. He may not be ‘perfect,’ but nature isn’t perfect. So let’s accept it, be up front about it, let him be proud of it, and here, let us define it ourselves.”
“I wanted him to be aware of how different he was and see that as an asset.”
Echolilia has been published as a book and featured in different mediums. Archibald has a new project underway that concerns the family dynamic when a member has autism.
To view more of the projects images, as well as take a look of Timothy Archibald’s blog, you can visit his website.