Photography and the Visual Narratives of Autism and Mental Health: A Critical Perspective on Visualising the Invisible

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


This paper provides critical perspectives on how photography can be used as a form of visual communication and method of enquiry to visualise mental health in autism. Approaches to autism have emerged across diverse disciplines, influencing the ways autism is critically discussed and perceived. Accordingly, contemporary arguments share an implicit sensitivity for the complexity of the social world, acknowledging that it is not possible to tell a single and exclusive story about something that is so complex yet invisible. However, misconceptions about mental health and autism continue to cause discrimination, harm and social stigmatisation, yet possible explanations for mental health problems among the autism population have received little attention. This is particularly pertinent for autistic female adults, who are already vulnerable to marginalisation in society. To understand this better, the paper discusses social stress theory, which centres on the idea that social disadvantage can translate into health disparities and a decreased social standing leads to stigmatised minority groups being exposed to more stressful life situations. Social structure repeatedly expediates this process through acts of discrimination and social exclusion.

Drawing on photographic images by autistic female artists, this paper outlines the ways they use photography to visualise experiences around their mental health. By facilitating visual social change for autistic people, this paper advocates including autistic people’s own narratives and processes of visual meaning-making to develop a deeper understanding of how they practice photography to visualise the invisible condition.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusAccepted/In press - Jul 2021
EventInternational Visual Sociology Association Conference - Online
Duration: 5 Jul 20218 Jul 2021


ConferenceInternational Visual Sociology Association Conference
Abbreviated titleIVSA


  • Photography
  • visual communication
  • Autism


Dive into the research topics of 'Photography and the Visual Narratives of Autism and Mental Health: A Critical Perspective on Visualising the Invisible'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this