With digital image technologies proliferating in contemporary visual culture, the
ubiquity of photographs suggests people produce, consume and share photographs
widely and routinely, in multiple contexts and with different meanings attached to them.
Creating these photographs involves decisions, actions and interventions the
photographer makes to guide the viewer and convey a particular message. Illuminating
the ways in which photography enables one specific, often overlooked group – young
male adults with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) – to visually express the ways they
see self and the world, this thesis develops a more inclusive understanding of everyday
From the literature that has been reviewed for this study, there has been no
investigation that offers a systematic and rigorous approach to empirical enquiry in an
effort to explore the photographic image-making of young autistic male adults. The area
that has been researched extensively is how autistic people perceive gaze patterns and
focus on facial expressions in picture communication systems. While recent studies
consider photography and analyse visual perception in ASD, there has been little
collaborative discussion in the literature that encompasses autistic people’s own
everyday photographic image-making and self-reflective thoughts. This study is one of
the first to address this knowledge gap.
The methodological framework developed for this qualitative investigation
includes participatory visual research methods, and positions this study at the
intersection of the recent advances in visual methodologies, and participatory creative
methods. Using thematic analysis, the study identified key findings across two
dimensions of ASD individuals’ photographic image-making; namely, the
phenomenological and social dimensions.
Participants’ insights were not only deeply fascinating in their own terms, but also
challenged dominant assumptions of digital photography. This qualitative study
underlines the importance of multiple senses in the act of taking photographs, while
expanding an understanding of what constitutes autistic people’s visual and social
worlds. The contribution to knowledge of this investigation is to (i) deepen the
knowledge of young male adults with ASD and their everyday photographic practices;
and (ii) extend the development of visual and creative research methods. Furthermore,
working with this specific group sheds light on photographic practices more broadly.
|Date of Award||Nov 2017|
|Supervisor||Darren Newbury (Supervisor) & Catherine Palmer (Supervisor)|