Touching has always been an issue for me. I don’t exactly know why. I want to explore touching in the context of autism. My older brother has a diagnosis of autism and profound retardation he is also nonverbal. His hands are delicate. He often holds them in a position, not unlike the way some people hold a drinking glass with a pinky finger extended. He has some repetitive movements that involve gently hitting his chest with the flat of his hand, as well as some not-so-gentle ways of touching himself. He slaps his head and bites his hand frequently. It is not clear whether he is ‘stimming‘, on the Tourette Syndrome (TS) spectrum, or both.

Mike autism sibling photograph delicate hands

I think my father also had some kind of touching issue. It wasn’t noticeable except when he would stroke a pet. He didn’t use the palm of his hand fully, but rather cupped it somehow. I never mentioned this to him or anyone, but somehow this idiosyncrasy stuck in my mind.

Photography helped me

A number of years ago, I attended a workshop given by Eugene Richards, noted photojournalist and filmmaker. His class was not about f-stops, exposures or other mechanical considerations of photography. We read sections of Leaves of Grass, by Walt Whitman, and other poetry to give us an emotional outlook about self-expression. Gene had a reputation for pushing students to explore issues that were uncomfortable.

I have said in previous posts, that photographs can be misleading. They often are not truthful in depicting the entirety of a moment. Individual viewers can imbue truth upon any given photograph. The photographer can also learn from his or her own photographs. Although I didn’t realize it at the time, I interpret my photograph below, taken at Gene Richards’s workshop, as a statement about my issue with touching.

Workshop Touching

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