Autism in Pictures - The Work of Timothy Archibald

Photography is so much more than gear and software and marketing. Otherwise, I wouldn't be a photographer. In Timothy Archibald's case, photography was a way of connecting with his autistic son, Eli. Archibald says, "People jump to all sorts of desperate measures to feel like they're doing something— a diet, a new medication, a special doctor...and this helped me feel like I was doing something....We got to work as equals on something."

It's a moving set of images that feel extremely intimate, genuine, and also quite melancholy. As I pored over these images, I kept remembering the words of Steichen: "Photography records the gamut of feelings written on the human face, the beauty of the earth and skies that man has inherited, and the wealth and confusion man has created. It is a major force in explaining man to man."

In 2010, these images were published in book form. If you're interested in buying the book, entitled "ECHOLILIA / Sometimes I Wonder," just click right here.

Via: NPR's The Picture Show

Log in or register to post comments


Nathan Smith's picture

I can relate 100%! My son is autistic and a LOT of what I am seeing in these photos 'feel' like what we see and from him. Not all the time, but he has his moments. 

Pedro Vera's picture

Funny, I am in the exact same situation. I have a 13-year old son with autism and at least half of the pics shown here could easily be of him. 

Victoria Jones's picture

These photos touched me in so many ways.  My 9 year old has Asperger's. I think the photos show how very special and unique our children are.  It captures true spirit that totally exists in them.  Thank you so much for sharing

Björn Terlegård's picture

Wow these are really strong images and the story makes the photos even stronger

Lonnie Fluty's picture

Really beautiful

Nick Shek's picture

just amazing. 

jones smones's picture

great work!

Ashkan Ahmadi's picture

:((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((( beautiful photos but very sad.

Albin's picture

Very good images, and emotive.  But have to say, if I hadn't been informed about the medical condition it would never have occured to me.  These are things kids do, given some spare time.

Hannah Rachel Potter's picture

The images aren't showing things he does. They are set up to communicate visually how autism *feels* - often lonely, isolating and as if the person is trapped in a vacuum. The child is not 'playing' with the items, they are props specifically chosen to demonstrate the theme.

I can't find the original interview I read with Timothy Archibald a couple years ago, but actually they are not just props. He explained that these ARE in fact things his son does and items he plays with and Timothy basically follows him with the camera. My nephew is Autistic, and he does things like what is shown in the pictures all the time. In this other link shows these photos and more and have explanations. You can see captions where Timothy explains that he lets the child more or less be the "director" and will even suggest taking pitures with certain items he is attached to, such as a log.,29307,2027433_2203689,00.html

Victoria Jones's picture

Excellent explanation! 

Kaitlin Walters's picture

 You really can't tell if someone has autism based on how they look or what they play with in some pictures.  You would probably have to meet this child before you could see the differences at play.  If you are confused, you should look up the symptoms of autism.  Autistic children do not look different than other children and the toys he is playing with were not the primary reason for his diagnosis, I'm sure. 

Lv2cuSmile's picture

Wow...amazing photos. I surely can relate also. I have a beautiful 10year old son who is nonverbal w/autism. The world is his playground. He finds joy and happiness in things that most would never give a second glance to. I think in alot of ways, he has a better view than everyone else. <3

awetistic's picture

I agree, my 8 year old is also nonverbal with autism and i to think she see the world better than i do. i think these pics are beautiful, each one made me smile and think of things my child does!

wernere's picture

together with 'days with my father' by P. Toledano these are 'the' 2 most personal - yet beautiful - photographic stories on the internet since ages.


Ben Reeve's picture

Really Beautiful!  

I see my son here!  

Julie Archibald's picture

Simplistic yet very powerful photos of how an autistic child reacts to the world around

beautiful, see this play daily with my 3 year is wonderful to see others embracing this. 

lisabruhn's picture

Very touching, I have an 8 year old granddaughter that is autistic, I see her doing things such as these, I think that it is great that he is allowed to explore his world and his feelings about how he perceives it to be. amazing photography, Eli was really captured here. I dont see sadness in the pictures, these are just things that make him happy, and its great that he has a family that allows him to be who he is

Charlie Freeman's picture

Very powerful pictures. :)

Luciana Glazier's picture

The photographer captured the world of his autistic son as a CHILD. His work is much more expansive and meaningful. Yesterday my neurotypical daughter made a birthday cake of garlic peels, egg shells and dish soap. She was serving it to a blue dragon. I had the pictures in mind and instead of getting upset with the mess, enjoyed the whole scene. The world needs more neurodiversity and parents of autistic children should never be left alone with their struggles. They carry more than difficultes. 

Michaels_Mom's picture

Beautiful, yet feel somewhat invasive into my soul.  My son is now 19 and remembering these serene moments is like floating in tranquil waters.  When people say, "I don't know how you do it," these captured moments speak for us.  How could we not?

NaNaandPaPaw's picture

I am a Grandparent with a 3 yr. old grandson his name is Connor..He is non-verable..But he speaks...only in a different way..You need to listen with your Heart..Just listen..These Children are Heaven sent to special families..God Bless all these Special children and their parents and care givers..They do have a lot to share..Just Listen..

Tamie Deary's picture

autistic childern are the most purest of angles in my eyes god should give every family one because you will never know a more powerful love than the love of a autistic child iam a mother of a 29 yr old autistic daughter thow it was very hard raiseing her with her many behavioral problems if i had it to do over again i wouldnt change any thing about her she is my angle sent from god and has tought me so much about real love god bless all of them and the lucky familys god chooses to bless you with the love of an autistic child

Kagiso Molwantoa's picture

he is such a beautiful boy. great pictures!

litalyn's picture

Beautiful!  My 3 year old son with autism does many of these exact same things!  I am thankful to see a parent celebrating their childs special way of enjoying their world.  These pictures aren't sad in any way.  My own son is a very content and happy child.  He is fantastically unique and the way he enjoys and connects with his environment is also unique.  Seeing a child who probably enjoys feeling things on his entire body, enjoys laying down and looking at things from a different perspective, likes to put things over his head, etc..., doesn't seem staged.  In our world, it's part of everyday life and perfectly natural.  :-)

Amazing photos, That is so like my special little boy, I would give my last breath just to be able to get into "his" world with him, he is my whole world  ;(

concei's picture

I'm a mother of a 25 yrs old handsome,Non Verbal with ADD and PICA, Autistic Son.Those pictures made me go back time.Beautiful!My son is very frendly,very happy,he is content.He enjoys smeling and feelings things,car rides,going to the park and he loves Super Target.It was very hard raiseing him with a lots behavioral problems;but,if i had to do it over again,i wouldn'd change anything.He is my Angel sent to me from God,to show me the real love and to listen with my heart.I think God choose the families to given them Autisic Children,becouse he knows we can handle with all the love that we have.We  are very bless!!!

litalyn's picture

Your love for your son is evident.  I have so many worries for my son when he becomes an adult.  I wonder if I will be able to protect him and who will care for him when I'm gone?  Sometimes I wish I could have contact with someone who has an older child with ASD and who has already been through where we are.  My son is 3, has been non-verbal until recently, and is beginning to have some echolalic speech.  He can repeat a word in order to get something that he wants.  He understands what he sees, but not anything we say to him.  Believe it or not, he IS intelligent, just in a different way.  I feel exactly the same, that my son is my angel, a gift from God.  He is my angel with autism. 

Timothy, your photo's of your son are Astounding, I am a 42 yr old mother of a 5 year old beautiful son who was diagnosed with severe Autism as he is non verbal. I feel very lucky as he is extremely happy, understands everything that is spoken to him & is also very affectionate towards every1 he knows. Due to him being non verbal, I have taught him that when he wants to show me that he love's me ( or any1 else ), he will kiss each cheek, then kiss my nose & then kiss my forehead. We as parents of Autistic Children have truly been blessed with the best of children. They are our children to teach the world that we as humans will always see th world differently, especially through their eyes.....Thank You Timothy for sharing your photo's with us, & Thank You to all of you in this world who take time to become educated about Autism & not judge us or our children..

Christopher Mims's picture

wow. a great post. thanks.

Absolutely beautiful how your camra was able to show the love and pride you have and are sharing with us and the rest of the world. The knowledge you are giving the world through your pictures is a priceless treasure only someone touched by these amazing children can do.

btadeni's picture

I have pictures of my 30 year old son with autism through the years and many of them are very reminscent of this collection.  Very lovely and evocative.

Andria Scheidel Alexander's picture

These images are amazing and full of truth. They give hope and meaning to parents everywhere that can relate to this disorder and that live with autism every day.