Discovering my purpose as an artist with Autism Spectrum Disorder

Words & Visuals: Kailyn Hooley

I originally wanted to become a photojournalist. But as time progressed and my knowledge grew, I realized that my role as artist was not to be a documenter, but a collaborator. I didn’t want to just take pictures—I wanted to be socially engaging with my work, use my personal experiences to tell stories, and use photography as a mode for social practice.

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In 2018, I was diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum Disorder (Aspergers). This diagnosis altered the way I view my work, and the way I view myself. When ASD was first paired with my name I felt a sense of relief, relief that I finally had an explanation for why I always felt different.

When I began to research this new, unearthed part of my identity I discovered a community of other people, like myself, who had been diagnosed later in life. As I dug deeper and deeper, my perceptions of Autism changed drastically. I had one perspective of what it was, but I came to see that it is not simply a fixed profile or a single definition. It is a diverse spectrum of people who navigate and experience life a little differently than a neurotypical person, which is something that should be celebrated.

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As an artist, I contemplated what I had to offer this growing community. Being in my thesis year, during my diagnostic journey, I feel I have an opportunity to create a platform; a platform that would allow others with ASD, like myself, to express how we each view/navigate this chaotic world.

In an attempt to blend art and social practice, I am working on a book of vernacular imagery submitted by those on the spectrum who have been diagnosed later in life. By utilizing the language of photography, this book will be an outlet for those living with ASD to share their individual experiences as a collective.

Featured images are Kailyn’s personal snapshots that informed her collaborative book. Find out more at: http://www.kailynhooley.com/