Project aims to break down autism stigma

A Knaresborough photographer is using her skills to focus on breaking down stigmas attached to autism.

Wednesday, 19th May 2021, 3:50 pm
Updated Wednesday, 19th May 2021, 3:52 pm

Former King James’s student Alexandra Heron, 24, started her Breadth: Spanning the Spectrum project earlier this year and the work is personal to herself.

“I’m Autistic. I was late-diagnosed, like many girls and women, at the age of 16,” said Alexandra.

“As a teenager, I vowed to keep my diagnosis as a closely guarded secret, afraid of the compartmentalised reaction I would receive from my peers if I ever disclosed my autism.

“Since attending university, however, I made an amazing group of friends, and suddenly found myself with the courage to be open about my autism.”

Alex graduated from York St John university with a BA in Philosophy, and then graduated with an MA in Visual Communication in 2020.

She said of her new work: “The project aims to break down some of the pervasive stigmatization surrounding what it means to be autistic.

“I have been photographing autistic people, of all ages, from all walks of life, in vastly different careers and telling their stories alongside their portraits. “All portraits are shot on both 35mm and medium format film. Shooting film has resulted in extremely honest portraits in that they cannot be seen straight away, so the shoots become less about the images and more about an honest connection and storytelling.

“The project is long term, and I have met so many amazing people that have overcome such adversity, and are truly inspiring.

“Listening to the stories and perspectives of other autistics and being able to share them has been nothing short of an honour.

“The project has been really well received so far and has gained a lot of support from both autistics and neurotypicals.”

She aims to publish the work in a book and distribute to schools and other organisations to widen opinions.

“Contrary to popular belief, autism isn’t a linear scale from mildly autistic to very autistic, it’s more like a kaleidoscope of fluid colours.

“I’m often told that I must be ‘mildly autistic’ but in fact, this just means that the world experiences me as mild; the life I experience has never felt mild to me.

“Despite the struggles associated with being autistic, autistic people aren’t broken or defective, we don’t endure suffering because of our autism, we endure suffering from the way in which the world treats and receives our autism.”

Alex’s work can be found on her facebook page - www.facebook.com/Breadth.Spanning.the.Spectrum and website - www.alexandraheron.com/breadth