Why Photographs Mean So Much to Me

An Autistic Woman's Relationship With Photography

You might be surprised how many photographs I take. Usually, hundreds a day.

I record all but the most mundane moments, in photographs taken from dawn until dusk.

For me, there are two reasons for taking so many photographs. The first is to record and document the lives of the people I love.

When I'm older, I want to look back over my daughter's childhood and see all of the wonderful things that we did together each day.

The second reason is to help me to process the world around me.

You see, I don't just take photographs. I review them, regularly.

I'm not a professional photographer by any means. I like the photographs to be clear, artistic, and well-framed, but the most important thing is that they're a record of the things I do and the places I go, with the people that I spend time with.

Why do photographs help me to process the world?

Being autistic can often feel like living inside a bubble. Things are going on all around me, and though I'm aware and in the moment, it's like there's a thin film that shields me from properly experiencing the world.

My brain easily gets overwhelmed, so it mutes everything for me. It's like I'm inside a bubble, and I can't quite connect with everything that's happening outside it.

There's often so much going on that I live through a moment, and don't feel like I had anywhere near enough time to process it.

Photographs help me. After I've taken them, I regularly sit and look through them again. Seeing the photographs allows me to start recalling things that were said, feelings I felt, expressions on faces, things that I did. Where most people are comfortable looking at their photographs infrequently, I will often go back over days that I've had - I'll also use photographs to compare the various times that I've been to the same place!

People don't always understand.

Not that I usually tell people the reason for often having my camera out, of course.

I'm aware that people have thought me weird in the past for taking so many photographs, and for walking around snapping everything I see. Often, that's easier for me than trying to absorb everything that's happening at the time.

What's a typical day like?

If I go somewhere new, I like to have a photograph of the outside of the place. Let's say it's the zoo. I might get a photograph of my daughter in front of the entrance to the zoo, so it's clear where I am. Then, I'd like a picture of her with each and every type of animal, so that I can remember everything we saw. It's the little details that matter to me—things that neurotypical (non-autistic) people might not consider to be that important.

I might also like photographs of her eating, so I can remember what she picked out at the restaurant, and some shots that show how much fun she's having—because that's the most important thing of all!

I also like to compare growth and change. That means that every time we go out in the garden during the summer, I'm taking photographs of her having fun and will often then go back to the previous summer in my online photo albums, to see how much she's changed in a year.

More mundane tasks like supermarket shopping aren't usually that important to me, but I've been known to bring the camera out in my local supermarket as well!

I share a lot of my photographs online. I'm always adding things to Facebook. It's excessive, but at least our extended families enjoy regularly seeing what my husband, daughter and I are up to! Of course, the photographs are often more for me than they are for everyone else!