My name is Richard Maguire of Autism Live Training. I have been autistic all of my life. I live and work in Aylesbury and Buckinghamshire as an autistic mentor for young and old. Marcus Charter took my website portrait picture and asked if I would blog about my love of photography. I know an awful lot about cameras and do not use them only for taking pictures. Cameras give me a way of connecting with people either visually through the lens or by conversations started when asked about the pictures I take – this provides me with openings that I normally struggle to find. I use cameras as stim (stimulating) objects – getting different sensations in my hands from handling them, feeling ‘sensory seeking pain’ in the back of my knuckles when I am anxious by holding them tight. I turn focus and aperture rings for calming my emotions and use heavy cameras with large straps over my shoulders to give deep pressure and proprioceptive feedback in public spaces.
Cameras often have led lights in their viewfinders – I use these for visual stimming. The little lights are like small sweets that go with the clearly framed scenes. Life comes together well in a viewfinder. I like the viewfinder in a Pentax P30t, but not the orange numbers, the green ones and red mode indicator lights are better. The best viewfinder stim I can get from the P30t is to have the red M for manual lit along with a solid and flashing green shutter speeds lit, I like the 250 and 500 lights best.
On my morning dog walk recently, I took an old Pentax and photographed some subjects around Aylesbury in ways I did over 20 years ago with the same camera and lens combination. This allowed me to take stock of life, how far I have come and how much I love my family and job. I help people to feel valued, be confident and at peace with themselves so that they can take their place in the world. The photographs I took that day will go down as way markers, memory makers and prompts for the future. The process of making photographs all links in with me too. I live in the moment as the picture is being made and am alive in the process. I turn the camera control mechanisms – getting sensory feedback from hands that are normally remote and do not feel like they belong to me. In the viewfinder a piece of the world is described and comes into focus. At that time, life, the world, my senses, mind and body come together and it feels fantastic. I planned in my head everything I would write today – about those moments behind my camera. If I need any prompting or recall I just go back to the images in my head and everything else comes back to me in harmony. Later there will be photographs too.
I shoot film, lots of film. Subtle life tone and everything visual comes together on film well. I do have some digital cameras and use them but I think digital is clunky and unsubtle compared to film. Film is deep and technical. Film helps me think and connect life and senses. Film needs to be got right straight away when the exposure is made – you don’t ‘Photoshop’ film. A film image is made with care, it cannot be erased it must be right. A film image cannot be checked straight after exposure. A film photographer needs to be sure enough of their photographic skills and way of seeing the world to know the picture is right the instant before it is made. That requires a deep sensing of the world and knowledge of one’s relationship to the subject. That requires connection and insight. I need that connection to connect with life.
I have been criticized by lots of people for not showing emotions, but I do have them. I am so passionate about my love of photography and its ability to help me communicate that I am probably repeating myself – another autistic trait. But, to be true to you, I must repeat the importance of powerful emotions allowed a channel to be received after years of denial. To get to these emotions, I frequently need to make a long technical journey and use physical props and do physical things over a long time. These things I do are my way of knowing sentiments, sensations and excitements and, most importantly, give them a route out. I can talk technical about photography and lots of things, people assume I am being ‘smart’. I have been told I have no feelings that hurts a lot. It’s just that when I access feelings and emotions though things and processes the exact deal and ways these things work is crucial for the process. When going to memories and feelings through photography the exact way it was done is a key to the really important stuff.
I find approaching people hard – so there are not many portraits in my work but the ones that are there are significant. Most are of family and my relationship with them over the years. One of my favourites is a black and white picture of Joshua, my son. He is laying on the floor, on his front, head up reading a comic (he was about seven at the time). I laid down at his level and photographed him in his concentration. It depicts the loveliest part of our father and son relationship.
My photography can be seen on Http://Www.flickr.com/Photos/24082504@N06/via Richard Maguire (cycle.nut66) or via the link below: