Jordan and Aubrey

I met Mara some years ago through a mutual acquaintance. Over the years our paths have crossed a few times, and we have always enjoyed chatting. One day three years ago, she asked me if I would photograph her children (not an unusual question for people to ask me).

She went on to tell me a story – her family story – which continues to touch my heart.

Mara explained that her children, then 9 and 11, are her joy, her love and her life’s devotion; something every parent says of their children. She went on to explain that they are both highly autistic and non-verbal, making them difficult to photograph.

They have many photos of the children, but moments of happiness, achievement and spontaneity occur differently, and a visual record of these moments does not always look like other family photos. A parent with no experience or knowledge of autism (or any other learning/behavioral challenge) may not immediately understand the significance of eye contact or a smile in an otherwise unremarkable photo that would likely be deleted upon the first view.

Whilst family and friends who know and understand Jordan and Aubrey’s special qualities enjoy and appreciate their family snaps … to others the photos are visibly different.

I have myself chatted with other parents or colleagues and shown photos of my children. It had never occurred to me that this simple exchange of photos might again and again be the start of a conversation that Mara might not always want to have.

Mara told me that she wanted to create some images that did not necessitate her to ‘explain’ the photos … or preface them by going into their family challenges, or Jordan and Aubrey’s level of autism. She just wanted some beautiful images that stood by themselves … along side everyone else’s photos.

Perhaps we should call it photo anonymity !?

… and this become my challenge three years ago.

This year marks the third photo session with Jordan and Aubrey. Each session is carefully coordinated with Mara and two experienced Carers who come along to help. We always walk as a group to the same leafy trail – the familiar setting being an easier choice than venturing further a-field.

Each year, and between the four of us … leaping around, leaf throwing, running, rolling, shouting and other capers – the like of which would have any observer questioning our sanity – I have captured a few simple images of the children that demonstrate love, compassion, family, friendship and above all their personalities.

The images shared in this story come from all three years.