Family Snap of Dad

I always loved this picture of my father.

Dad contemplating, looking out into a swimming pool

Dad always had this sense of wonder about nature. I suppose that was why he became a physicist. On the other hand, he wasn’t that comfortable with the real world, which is probably why he was a theoretical physicist. His real love was mathematics. After he retired after a long career, he had five books published. The topics ranged from Wave Propagation in Solids and Fluids to Finite Difference Methods In Dynamics of Continuous Media; not real page-turners. In fact, it is not inconceivable to spend several days on one page.

autistic sibling on lawnDad had great love for his family. But nothing prepared him for his first son, Michael, my older brother. He was unreachable.

Dad knew something was wrong from the beginning, but in the early 1950s, there was no support for low functioning, autistic children. Dad never ever gave up, though. He reminded me of Cool Hand Luke.

I caught a great moment once, between the two of them.

autism sibling parent moment

It isn’t such a good photograph, but it surely captures something wonderful.

2 thoughts on “Family Snap of Dad

  1. Have a little free time today, so I have had a chance to catch up with the few blogs I follow.

    You are a gifted writer man, of that there is no doubt. One simply has to read a paragraph of one of your posts, to know it was penned by a literary, eloquent man.

    That being said, it’s your photography that has had the most effect on me. Anyone with a DSLR and a rudimentary knowledge of the “Exposure Triangle”, can go out and snap Pretty Flower pics, post them and get a ridiculous amount of clicks for their efforts. My blog is choc full of such posts. What do they say? That I can photograph a flower and display my technical skill? Who does that honor, the flower or myself?

    Yes, when one clicks the Autism category on my page, the images displayed are of a different ilk. There is no need to explain to you what they mean, you already know. A lot of the images are greeted with “oohs and aahs” and comments on how “Beautiful”. And yes, he IS beautiful, in many, many ways. I love those images. They are mine, of mine. However, they are SAFE. They are within my comfort zone, of expressing my perspective on Autism. I have images I have taken, that I’m scared of and are vaulted.

    Your images, are jolting, beautiful, uncomfortable, poignant, but above all, honest. The moment we press that shutter it’s a done deal. The resulting image not only depicts but reflects. It reflects to the world the soul of the photographer. Many people miss this.

    I have studied the Masters, I know my way around a camera and DO possess skill and a smattering of natural talent. I can say with a clear conscience, “I am a Photographer.”

    You Jack are a Photojournalist. And a bloody good one. I flatter you not, it’s not my way.

    “It isn’t such a good photograph,…” Nope. It’s an amazing one.

    Many times you have mentioned, your brother has never spoken to you. He’s spoken to me. Loud and clear. Because of you.
    The best thing about all of the whole thing is; you are an inspiring writer yeah. Yet you are a powerful, visual story teller, and I don’t think you really know how good you are. Good. No one can ever then dispute the honesty of your images.

    Thank you. You are a credit to the craft.


    • You honor me, Rohan. I deeply appreciate your comment.

      I’ve always had a good visual sense, and can find family snapshots of myself at about 8 years of age, with a camera dangling about my neck. I never wanted to miss anything that caught my eye. However, my serious study of photography began at the same time that I started photographing Mike, in 1989. I took quite a number of classes at ICP in New York and tried to learn all I could about different techniques. With Larry Fink, it was the detached flash; Mary Ellen Mark gave me the impossible assignment of spending 24 hours with my brother in his group home, pitting me against the management and my own discomfort as I imagine a photojournalist has to do. One of the best workshops I had was with Gene Richards. He is a great photojournalist and a generous teacher. He brought Walt Whitman poetry and other literature to the class and also had us go into the community to capture pictures, as if it were ‘on assignment’. So I have had a smattering of training from a couple of world class photojounalists.

      However, as a brother, I really wanted to try figuring out ANYTHING about Mike. He is so much different than anyone else, an isolated island. I think it was easier for me to photograph him in ways that I did BECAUSE he is so different. Sometimes I found myself trying to provoke him, in my frustration; getting close with my 28mm lens, something that no one else would tolerate – actually a couple of times he did push the camera away… which I considered a victory for communication; sometimes I took cheap shots, purposely choosing a background that would grow a plant out of his head, or some other unkind things. For the most part, however, I’ve tried to be respectful.

      I am so happy to have been able to introduce my brother, Mike to you through my photography. As I have no access to him at this time, I am using my writing to further my ambition of figuring him out – I think it is more about figuring myself out: looking and re-looking at my photographs, organizing them, creating different sets of pictures to see if anything new is revealed.

      Once again, my friend, thank you for writing. Your comment made my day!

      Warm regards to you and your family, Rohan.


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