Family Dynamics

I took this photo at the Brooklyn Developmental Center, Brooklyn, NY. Michael was assigned here temporarily as part of the re-assignment of Willowbrook[1] residents, before he was housed in a group home.

autistic family dynamics

The photograph is illustrative on several levels.  Photographically, it seems clear that Michael is the center of attention. He is different than the other characters pictured. For instance, he is in a white trench coat; the others are in black. He doesn’t look pleased to be there. Is it the iconic struggle of the good guy (dressed in white) against the bad guys (in black)? What do they want to do with him? The feet of the two characters in the foreground are not in the frame. I like to think of this metaphorically as showing their lack of grounding at that moment, but it actually would have been a better photograph had their entire silhouettes been pictured.

Mike is, indeed the center of attention of the assembled group, which is in fact, his family. The photographer, also a family member, is still further removed, an unseen observer who, biding his time, chose a moment he deemed meaningful.

In the moment of this photograph, the dynamics of my family are revealed.


[1] A large mental institution on Staten Island, NY, closed for widespread abuse in the 1970s.

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