As I See It

New photo exhibition gives insight into how people with autism see the world

The National Autistic Society Northern Ireland (NAS) is showcasing a unique new photography exhibition in Belfast exploring how people with autism view the world.
 
The exhibition, entitled As I See It, is being launched on Wednesday June 4 at the Queen's Film Theatre in Belfast and features nine-year-old Michael McGuinness from Belfast

The exhibition features pictures of, and by, ten people with autism from around the UK who are all affected to differing degrees by the disability.

Taken by photographer Robin Hammond, the series of portrait photographs of people with autism provides an insight into the wide range of experiences of those living with the disability. Alongside Robin’s portraits are photographs taken by the subjects themselves, depicting their own unique experience of autism.

Robin Hammond, photographer, said: 'This fantastic project is an opportunity for our subjects to express their experience of autism for themselves - as they see it. My view poses an interesting contrast to that of the subjects - we have people living all their lives with autism, and someone documenting them who is only just learning about it. Autism is a complex condition and there is no easy "one size fits all" definition, but through this exhibition we’ll help to bridge the gap in understanding and raise awareness of this complex disability.'

The exhibition is part of the NAS awareness campaign, think differently about autism, which aims to increase public awareness of autism and change people’s perception of this complex and lifelong disability.

Nine year old Michael really enjoyed taking part in the exhibition. He said: 'I loved getting my pictures taken. I had to stand for a long time. Robin was very nice. He had a magic camera.'

Michael's parents Clem and Maire McGuinness hope that the exhibition will change people's perceptions and understanding of autism.

'We hope that the photo exhibition and think differently about autism campaign will help people to understand that our son (and others like him) has feelings and thoughts that are just as important as those of anyone else,' they said. 

'We would like to think that this campaign would help people to see that there is room for everyone in this world and not to judge our son by his disabilities, but by his personality, which is wonderful and loving. If Michael could convey one message through the photo exhibition, it would be: "I am gorgeous and a genius and I can do anything if only I try!"'

The think differently about autism campaign has been inspired by research undertaken for the NAS by GfK NOP that shows that there is a real difference between the public’s understanding of autism and the reality of being diagnosed with the disability. Reassuringly, the research also shows that the public would be far more willing to engage with people with autism, if they understood more about the condition and the impact it has on individuals and their families.

As I See It will be on display in the QFT until June 8, and at the Harbour Museum, Derry, from June 23 - July 5.