Page 6 - The Album Project
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THE ALBUM PROJECTAround the time of his fifteenth birthday in 1990, our son Isaac developed a serious curvature of his spine. Isaac has autism – a limited ability to com- municate. Surgery was recommended, probably neces- sary. We had spent fifteen years protecting him from injury and were unprepared to send him into a situation where, at least temporarily, he would be hurting. In an attempt to help him understand, we bought him a Polaroid Spectra® camera. We hoped to use it to show him what was hap- pening and why it was necessary to enter the hospital feeling OK and leave with a very sore back. Somewhat to our surprise, the camera became his constant companion at family events – a tool for him to order his world.Because I wanted the images to be printed large enough to make the captioned photos in his albums “readable,” this work was done on an 8x10 camera with film subse- quently scanned, adjusted and printed. Isaac was photo- graphed in roughly ten sessions in my studio producing 75 images. The process would begin with him and me going through an album and selecting two or three page pairs. This sort of decision-making is very difficult for him.In some of the Polaroids, you can see him wearing his “taking a picture” face. He learned this pose in kindergar- ten when the teacher insisted he “smile for the camera.” Once established, these habits become fixed, usually for- ever. This expression would have become the default ex- pression for the large images if I had not intervened. This forced grin repeated in all of the pictures would not have done justice to his actual range of expression. This limited range becomes part of the story. As difficult as some of these tasks were, including not moving once the camera was set, he completely enjoyed his part of doing the proj- ect and continues to ask when we will do it again. A short video of this process is available on the website.This project is a record of Isaac and his photographs. The five-hour scoliosis surgery, so intimidating at the time, be- comes no more than the background for this story. The story is his ability to overcome his limitations and build a life independent from his parents. It is a history and a trib- ute to the family members and friends, many of whom are no longer with us that live in his albums. But, that is not

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