Phenomenology 2010

Volume 5, Issue Part 2, 2010

Selected Essays from North America Part 2

Thomas D. Craig
Pages 133-148

How to Make a Photograph within the In/Visible World of Autism

Framing the world with a camera is a phenomenological and semiotic challenge both for documentary photography and research in lived experience. The skilled practice of photography itself can benefit from cross-fertilization with Communicology and its commitment to understanding the constitutive relations of visual givens and expressive bodies as mediated by the perception of cultural signs and codes (Connolly, Lanigan, and Craig, 2005). Communicology also can help to negotiate the perpetual lure of perceptual faith and its offer of some clever aperture providing access to the things themselves. In this essay I will describe the experience of phenomenologically-based research photography within a two week summer camp for children and youth with autism. Taking a clue from artist-professor Victor Burgin (1982) on commonplace photographic practice as the magnification of the natural attitude “viewed through a lens,” I will discuss the assumptions and pitfalls of “smiling for the camera” in the extreme contexts of autism. As I will show, Communicology can help to navigate through the idealist temptation to treat individual consciousness as an abstract object of inquiry as well as the pretense of capturing neutral objects at a distance.