My brother Michael is autistic, low functioning and has never spoken. I have precious few clues about whether he knows we are brothers or even if he recognizes me as an individual. Mike is ‘the other’, unknown and unknowable. Since we share the same DNA as our parents, the thought occurred to me that I might be like him on some level.
I used to visit Mike regularly at his group home. Mike and I are as different as night and day, so it was very disconcerting to hear from his housemates that they knew we were brothers because we look exactly alike (Paradoxical Comfort Zone).
I took this portrait of Mike on his 40th birthday. As it was very difficult to get his attention, this image is very dear to me. One of Mike’s eyes is looking directly at me, giving me the attention that I craved.
Years ago I constructed a self portrait that illustrates the possibility of my identity with Mike. I am not certain if this portrait may be considered the ‘phototherapy’ developed by Spence and Martin, it meets only one of the above criteria: self awareness. This image does not seem to address a healing process for me.
I know this portrait is a bit shocking. I certainly do not intend any disrespect. The point is to show how Mike and I might be similar. Perhaps this is how Mike’s housemates saw me.