"You, Me and Autism”
"You, Me and Autism”
Gosforth Civic Theatre 14th May - 22nd June.
“We do have emotions, we just don’t show them.”
One of the central features of autism is difficulty with communicating and forming
relationships with other people - simply meeting someone’s gaze in a greeting can be overwhelming and cause enormous anxiety.
As a photographer with autism, Colin Potsig has recently embarked on a project that challenges this characteristic of his condition in a surprising and direct way, through portraiture. His exhibition, ”You, Me and Autism”, originally opened at the Side Gallery, Newcastle on Saturday March 25th during World Autism Awareness Week. The exhibition was then brought to Gosforth Civic Theatre's gallery the following month.
On one level, this powerful series of portraits offers a timely reminder that more than one in a hundred people in the North East, of all ages, abilities and backgrounds are living with the condition.
On a deeper level, there is the underlying and almost paradoxical situation of people with autism dealing with the intense scrutiny of formal portraiture. All good portraits are multi-layered collaborations between the artist and subject, but it is the additional layers of ‘autistic’ participation (on both sides of the camera) that make "You, Me and Autism”particularly unique.
A 28 page newspaper, featuring all of the portraits in the exhibition accompanies the exhibition and is free to all visitors of the exhibition.
The "You, Me and Autism”project was made possible by funding from Arts Council England. In addition, Colin Potsig has received valuable assistance from Spectrum Enterprises CIC, a specialist employment agency who provide programmes of support for people with autism and Aspergers Syndrome.
Colin Potsig, 41, studied the technical aspects of commercial photography more than 20 years ago but his anxiety in social situations made it extremely difficult for him to leave home or even go outside. He found it impossible to apply his skills as a photographer or in any other field of work.
His return to photography in 2012 was a direct result of finally being diagnosed with autism at the age of 37. Almost immediately, he was motivated to start using photography again, as a means to address his autism. Initially he stepped outside into the countryside where he lives in the North Pennines and made landscapes. Then, to his surprise, he found himself drawn to photographing people.
“I have found that through making serious portraits I can, in my own way, connect and communicate with people. In this series of portraits of other autistic people, I believe I have reached a point where I am beginning to use photography in a very meaningful way, in a way that perhaps only I can.”
*The exhibition in Gosforth Civic Theatre.