All parents love their children. But what do you do when you can’t connect with them? In my case, I started making photographs of, and with, my son Elijah, who has autism spectrum disorder. This series—the title is from “echolalia,” a clinical term for the mimicking aspect of his condition—shows the bridges we’ve built on our shared journey of wonder, discovery, and understanding.
We began this project when Eli was five. He was doing well at school but fixating on odd things, lashing out, speaking repetitively. My wife and I couldn’t figure him out. Then I started taking pictures of him around the house. It was an instinctive act for a photographer: Point your camera at something in order to make sense of it. But a curious thing happened. As I documented what Eli was doing and creating, he became interested in the images I was making. I was learning how he thinks; he was learning what I like and value.
We soon had a system. Eli would do something unusual, one of us would notice, and we’d make a photo of it together. The pictures we took over three years were more raw and feral than anything I’d done as an editorial or advertising photographer. And more personal. This is, after all, the story of a father and his son.
Timothy Archibald’s book, Echolilia: Sometimes I Wonder, was published last year by Echo Press. See more of his work at timothyarchibald.com.