João was diagnosed with autism at age three. He is now twenty years old and he’s never attended school, or picked up a book to read; he’s never watched television or used a computer or mobile phone. João does not speak, but this is not the same as having no voice. From an early age, João began to write.
Autism creates a unique way of being in the world and creating a safe and comfortable reality for oneself. What a majority of people process as the most innocuous stimuli tends to overwhelm people with autism, resulting in limited social contact and communication, something that is often managed through patterns of repeated behaviour.
When I first met João, he wrote down some of his thoughts on photography. He accepts that words are not an absolute form of communication and believes that photography is a powerful means of elevating human mindfulness. He writes about a variety of issues facing the present and the future with a keen intellect and stunning clarity, as though he had access to a line of thought unknown to most, a gift of his autism. His book The Child of God, released by Porto Editora in 2014, was a bestseller.
In the process of working together on this project, I’ve witnessed João’s writing, his thought processes, his hopes and dreams. I feel as I’ve been given a great gift: he’s shown me a different world. My hope is that this project raises awareness of how much we have to learn about and from those with autism, as evidenced in the unique case of this remarkable young man.
This project was in exhibition at Mupi Gallery, Maus Hábitos in 2016: