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Saved by Street Photography: An Answer to Isolation
Issue 02: November 2022
A desire to isolate is something I’ve lived with, looked at, and worked on throughout my life. And although sometimes I still do have a desire to isolate, I am honest with myself about it, so I don’t fall into denial and sink back into seclusion. After many years of determined focus on self-help and self-care, these days I have no problem allowing myself some alone time when needed. Although I’m cautious not to overstep the line where healthy alone time becomes unhealthy isolation and dissociation. I could have easily used the covid lockdowns as an excuse to sink back into the isolation that was once so prevalent in my life. These days, however, when I catch myself slipping into a mindset of separation and seclusion, or into an unhealthy desire to avoid life and isolate, I immediately take action and intervene. For me, street photography was an intervention. It saved me from myself.
I bought my first camera back in 2001 for the sole purpose of documenting my kids growing up. This was years before everyone was walking around with camera-phones in their pockets. The idea of a small point and shoot camera with a built-in flash where I didn’t have to know anything about photography other than pointing and shooting, and didn’t have to mess around with dropping off and picking up film, played a huge part in choosing the camera I did (a second-generation Canon Digital Elph). I had no thoughts of becoming a photographer, I just wanted to make sure I grabbed all these memories while I had the chance.
And then it happened... I accidently took an amazing photo! A photo that once loaded into my computer and seen on a full screen, struck me. It was a snapshot of my son Max. He was sitting at the table having lunch and wearing one of my hats when I noticed how cute he looked and quickly grabbed my camera which I always kept nearby. I snapped off a few shots and to my amazement captured a part of my son I hadn’t noticed before. This was not just a portrait. There was something deeper. An essence.
For a fraction of an instant, while I was clicking the shutter button, my son looked directly into the camera’s lens. And although I have looked into my sons eyes many times before this, I hadn’t realized until I loaded this photo into my computer and viewed it on a larger screen that he and I have never made true eye contact. I couldn’t believe it. I went back into archive to look at the other photos I snapped of him that day. There were four or five more simple snapshots of my son sitting there wearing my hat and having lunch. But these photos, weren’t this photo. This photo was special. I made sure everyone in the family got a copy, and they too were struck.
This photograph was extremely powerful to all who know and love Max, because Max is Autistic. And although he is on the higher functioning side of the ASD spectrum, and has come a very long way in the past 20 years regarding his eye contact and other social, emotional and personal communication skills, up until the point of this photo, Max had never made real eye contact with any of us. This is why it was so powerful; there he was, looking us all in the eye. Amazing!
This photo had given me such a new insight into my son that it was here, he and I began a conscious and dedicated alliance, working on social and emotional skills such as strategic responses to triggering situations, remaining flexible and open to change, and appropriate communication skills, including eye contact. I learned that I too, had plenty to work on. To be more patient. To be more understanding. To respond rather than react, especially in challenging or frustrating situations. And how to keep my mind open so I could continue to learn as much as I could in order to help my son. I wanted to be one person that Max knew would always be there. I wanted him to understand that in this crazy world, he had one person he could count on despite all the craziness. Max was almost three years old when I snapped this photo. Today, he is in his twenties and a Senior at one of our local Universities.
After creating this amazing image by accident, I remember having the thought, ‘Imagine what would happen if I actually tried to make good photos!’ This is where I began thinking outside the box and putting some abstract and artistic consideration into each photo I created. I began looking at the world from different angles and perspectives. I began seeing differently. I looked at the effects of sunlight during different hours of day, and created compositions without realizing this is what I was doing. My love for photography had begun. Thanks Max!
Coming in December 2022… Issue 03