Portraits of Love: How One Father Captured the True Essence of His Autistic Son
I came home one day, and Eli had discovered he could blow into one end of the vacuum hose and hear the sounds and vibrations amplified through the other end. He was doing it over and over and over, and finally we decided to go outside with it. The resulting image seemed to exemplify the idea listening closely to yourself and the feeling of being totally at peace with your own little system.
Eli consistently wakes up at 5:50 a.m. every morning. It is my job to get up early with him, get food into him as quickly as possible, and essentially hang out before the rest of the family gets up. These times have a magical quietness to them, and they give us a time to connect before the rest of the family awakes. One morning I came out and saw this scene. Although, the flowers he is so intensely sniffing actually have no scent at all.
Elijah In My Sweatshirt
Eli had spent the week carrying around this toy baby that used to be his brother’s. One morning it was gloriously foggy, and I asked him to come out to take a photograph in the fog. He grabbed a sweatshirt and grabbed the baby and headed out with me. The sweatshirt was mine, and too big for him, and the baby wasn’t a cherished toy, but something that was commonplace that week. Looking through the camera I felt the photo mirrored our roles as parent and child and how they can shift back and forth at times.
This was an early photograph in the project. Eli’s sense of total absorption, this deep sense of study and wonder, came through clearly in this photograph.
Eli spends most of his time in an air of distraction, occasionally punctuated by moments of hyper-focus—a focus so deep no on can break him free of it. In this image, he’d just realized that our kitchen funnel fit perfectly around his head—a discovery that clearly brought out one of his moments of hyper-focus.
The Listening Device
Eli found this tube in the mail that had come one day. Immediately he attached it to his arm and it became another appendage to him—an extension of what he already has. Then it was a gun, then it was a crutch, then it was a third leg. All the things he could imagine, it would become. When I got out the camera, it turned into a listening device, something that enhances a sense he already has.
Eli loves to have his senses stimulated. When he finally got an iPod, this was his favorite pastime—back down on the scratchy grass, face to the sky, and music filling his ears. We took this photograph one pretty fall evening when he was eight. It was the last image for the project.