Aspergers and the pursuit of a photography centric life

Discussion in 'Ethics and Philosophy' started by batwister, Jan 26, 2012.

  1. batwister

    batwister Member

    Messages:
    919
    Joined:
    Sep 4, 2010
    Location:
    Midlands, UK
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    I'm currently facing a bit of a dilemma - what some have called a "quarterlife crisis". More to the point however, with apergers and the potential risk of finding myself commited/obsessed with a particular line of work and one that could be counter to any artistic pursuit, I'm wondering if anyone else has faced a similar dilemma? The art/life struggle can be difficult enough, but with this condition, I wonder if it's possible at all when simply coping with work and socialising pose a huge challenge as it is.

    I should say that I'm not seeking advice about the condition, but more a confirmation that the art life is achievable with AS without massive compromises.
    Every artist faces challenges and naysayers in the serious pursuit of their work, but I'm trying to decide if a mental strain on top of that is really worth it.

    Thanks.
     
  2. Mainecoonmaniac

    Mainecoonmaniac Subscriber

    Messages:
    3,957
    Joined:
    Dec 10, 2009
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    You're thinking too much about it. Just integrate art into your life. Art and life doesn't have to be to separate things.
     
  3. BrianShaw

    BrianShaw Member

    Messages:
    6,660
    Joined:
    Nov 30, 2005
    Location:
    Los Angeles,
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    I don't know too much about asperger (except to have had a kid with that syndrome on my kid's baseball team once), but I think you could be incredibly successful with photography. Maybe instead of a "mental strain" it would be a nice pleasant diversion. And besides... is it possible that the associated obsession might make your body of work more focused and coherent?
     
  4. Poisson Du Jour

    Poisson Du Jour Member

    Messages:
    4,210
    Joined:
    Jul 1, 2008
    Location:
    Richmond/Geelong, AUS
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Aspergers should not be seen as a "condition", but a favourable trait. Millions around the world have it. I was diagnosed with it 30 years ago (and it is very important to have an accurate diagnosis, not by heresy or casual referral from know-it-alls). I'm an obsessed photographer, but I don't let it take control of me — I have other interests outside photography. My traits are detail, detail, detail, persistence, inability compromise when set to determined outcome... others still which characterise me, and many others. Asperger people frequently have hightened visual-spatial awareness and can be thought of as having potentially much more success in the arts (e.g. photography, traditional brush arts) etc. Some of my friends have it and are very successful brush artists. Do some research on it, but never feel like you're isolated or "doing it tough". That only happens if you bring the roof down on yourself.
     
  5. sandermarijn

    sandermarijn Member

    Messages:
    769
    Joined:
    Oct 19, 2005
    Location:
    Leiden, Neth
    Shooter:
    35mm
    You will have to find that out for yourself, by trying, by trying hard. I can only speak for myself in saying that some of the most memorable episodes in my life were (in hindsight and/or in actuality) also the most mentally/emotionally challenging ones. Perhaps the same concept applies to you and your artist work as well. Try to find out if there is reward in working your personality into your art.
     
  6. CGW

    CGW Member

    Messages:
    2,797
    Joined:
    Apr 19, 2010
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    Asperger's and PDD-NOS will both be deleted from the upcoming DSM-V. It can, but not always, involve intense focus on details and routines, sometimes to the point of being utterly non-functional. Sadly, it's become a bit of a designer diagnosis which helps explain the apparent rise in the incidence of ASD cases. Frankly, it's a rare disorder where difficulty with social interaction and language issues can make life hell for otherwise capable individuals. There is a large gulf between intense interest, though, and obsession. In the end, it's the definition of "successful" in socializing that involves compliance with norms that many Asperger's individuals can't/won't reach. Think of yourself as a photographer first and someone with ASD issues second--make that a distant second.
     
  7. ntenny

    ntenny Member

    Messages:
    2,283
    Joined:
    Mar 5, 2008
    Location:
    San Diego, C
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    With the disclaimer that I think our whole understanding of the "spectrum" is probably all messed up---it seems to me that certain aspects of doing photography mesh well with a lot of "Aspergery" or, um, "spectral"[?] traits. I'm not sure I know what "the art life" is, but it seems like any reasonable definition thereof would include a lot of well-known, successful people who are widely felt to have been Somewhere On The Spectrum...

    Personally, I'd worry less about the Asperger's aspects specifically and more about the very difficult question of whether to try to make a living at the art you love (and quite likely starve in a garret) or fund your passion with a day job (and accept a lot of time spent apart from the work you really want to be doing). Neither, probably, is particularly easy for anyone, but the balancing act is really individual and I think basically orthogonal to Asperger's.

    -NT
     
  8. sandermarijn

    sandermarijn Member

    Messages:
    769
    Joined:
    Oct 19, 2005
    Location:
    Leiden, Neth
    Shooter:
    35mm
    So well-spoken Nathan; beautifully elegant and very close to what I feel the OP is struggling with. I hope he can derive some reassurance/recognition from your words.
     
  9. markbarendt

    markbarendt Subscriber

    Messages:
    7,516
    Joined:
    May 18, 2008
    Location:
    Beaverton, OR
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Every choice requires sacrifices, forces compromises, and entails risk.
     
  10. johnielvis

    johnielvis Member

    Messages:
    940
    Joined:
    May 21, 2010
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    of course it's possible--why wouldn't it be?
     
  11. blansky

    blansky Subscriber

    Messages:
    5,985
    Joined:
    Nov 6, 2002
    Location:
    Wine country, N. Cal.
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    "Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans."

    Not nearly as profound but, once when I was ten and playing hockey someone asked me how I learned to skate so well. I told them I didn't really learn how to skate, I just put them on when I was five, and with the other kids, started chasing a puck around the rink. The skating developed on it's own.

    As someone mentioned we may over think some things.

    Not sure what some of your symptoms are but while engrossed in some things like photography other things like social issues may disappear for a time. Sort of like the stutterer who can sing flawlessly. Other things on his mind.

    As for making a living at it...well that's a whole other story.

    Good luck.
     
  12. andrew.roos

    andrew.roos Member

    Messages:
    568
    Joined:
    Jan 4, 2011
    Location:
    Durban, Sout
    Shooter:
    35mm
    I think you'll find that a lot of us are somewhere on the autistic spectrum. The neurotypicals are out drinking beer and watching baseball with their mates and shooting happy snaps on their cell phones, not sitting in the darkroom wondering whether to soup the three decade's supply of Plus-X they have stashed in their freezer in Rodinal or D76. Join us and enjoy our company!
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 27, 2012
  13. keithwms

    keithwms Member

    Messages:
    6,073
    Joined:
    Oct 14, 2006
    Location:
    Charlottesvi
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    No worries, apuggers syndrome is quite common; it's the whole reason why this forum was created.

    Now, some people's work on here is more autistic than others', but we are all here to support each other, making whatever art we can, regardless of our various challenges. Some people even have digital issues, i.e. inability to use their fingers in a healthy way. We try to be tolerant while not denying our apuggers syndrome.

    P.S. Please pardon any implied insensitivity in my comments here, I intend no insult to anyone.
     
  14. BradleyK

    BradleyK Subscriber

    Messages:
    944
    Joined:
    Jul 14, 2011
    Location:
    Burnaby, BC
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Well said: You hit the proverbial nail right on the head. "Making art" is such an integral part of my life that it has simply become part of me and what I do. I carry a camera (an M6 with a 50mm Summilux) with me on a daily basis; I see doing so as little different than carrying my wallet or my crackberry...
     
  15. rthomas

    rthomas Member

    Messages:
    1,182
    Joined:
    Jan 2, 2009
    Location:
    Charlotte, NC, USA
    Shooter:
    35mm
    As someone who has received professional and not-so-professional opinions ranging from OCD, bipolar, ADHD, Asperger's, to "caffeine-induced anxiety disorder" (my personal favorite), and even "just plain lazy" (this from my 4th grade teacher), I love the word "neurotypicals." I'm going to start using that in daily conversation, if you don't mind. Thank you!
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 27, 2012
  16. Roger Cole

    Roger Cole Member

    Messages:
    5,480
    Joined:
    Jan 20, 2011
    Location:
    Atlanta GA
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    +1000, well said!

    Another phrase for neurotypicals might be "dull, boringly normal people."
     
  17. ME Super

    ME Super Member

    Messages:
    1,225
    Joined:
    Apr 17, 2011
    Location:
    Central Illinois, USA
    Shooter:
    35mm
    I have two kids. My daughter is neurotypical. My son has autism. Both have a camera. Personally I like my son's photos better. My daughter tends to take self-portraits and has the camera slanted at odd angles. My son tends to take his time to get his photo framed just the way he wants it. They both like the photos they take. So yes, I believe you can create art. Will you be able to make a living doing it? I don't know. Quitting your day job to focus on your art is something only you will be able to decide if you want to do.

    ME Super
     
  18. batwister

    batwister Member

    Messages:
    919
    Joined:
    Sep 4, 2010
    Location:
    Midlands, UK
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    I respect your opinion and approach to dealing with AS, but I'm of the mind that, on this planet at least, it's something we have to work around and certainly not a superhuman power. We'd all be in Bill Gates' shoes if it was!

    'Doing it tough' is the very root of my problem, yeah. I suppose it comes down to the fact that my favourite photographers at the moment and the kind of work I'm aspiring to emphasises simplicity - David Ward and Jeffrey Conley for example. Their work in particular clearly isn't the materialisation of an overly methodical mind. This kind of clarity of vision, I believe, might be impossible to achieve with 'our' type of convoluted thinking - as much as we try to absorb the work of others and assimilate, eventually our hard-wired way of solving problems seems to take over. Personally, I've found that I'm only able to make photographs concerned with simplicity when I'm unashamedly mimicking. This is almost a reflection of the strategies aspies use in social situations. When I'm doing my own thing, being myself with the camera and exploring my own style, the work that arises is somewhat chaotic. Not always, but a great deal of the time. I've certainly not reached any level of artistic maturity yet, so don't get me wrong, I accept that for any practicing artist there's a long and winding road ahead and the destination is always somewhat of a mirage! I'm convinced however, that the result of Aspergers in art is one of a different visual language and one that many serious and well-read practitioners with AS might find themselves disappointed with or confused by. The mental 'strain' that I mention then has a lot to do with attempting to bypass 'AS photographer mode' and along with everyday life and work, it all becomes a bit exhausting, to say the least.

    I don't want to sound defeatist, I'm certainly not about to give up on my photography, but I'm convinced that without bypassing the AS on some level while making photographs, the work is in essence, outsider art. Those 'neurotypical' universalities don't seem to exist in the work, as the language of art, just like the language that we speak and express, has to be processed and learnt in a similar way for us to communicate efficiently with images. For some, making images that 'speak' in a radically different way is fine if not favourable, as you mention Poisson Du Jour, but it can be a great drawback for any wider recognition and acceptance of work.

    I'd certainly be interested to read an academic study that goes into some of these things.

    Perhaps the passage above confirms that!

    I've found this to be true to an extent. Of course, a lot of people find landscape photography (my practice) therapeutic and I'm of that mind too... although I'm careful not to become too 'new age' about it. On the other hand, photography is inherently a pretty antisocial hobby and a magnetic one for anyone on the spectrum, as people have mentioned. Thanks for your response.

    This is probably the most constructive advice I could receive on the matter, so thanks ntenny, and everyone else.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 27, 2012
  19. Worker 11811

    Worker 11811 Member

    Messages:
    1,629
    Joined:
    Jan 29, 2010
    Location:
    Pennsylvania
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Sometimes I wonder whether I'm artistic or autistic.
    Then I think, "Aw, what the hell's the difference, anyway?"

    I have been told that I have ADD. Don't worry, I'm comfortable with that.
    Besides, I believe that ADD is an inborn trait that allows a person to pay attention to multiple stimuli at the same time.
    For a photographer, that's quite a favorable trait. Isn't it?

    Anyway, I take Wellbutrin when I need it. ADD is an off-label use for Wellbutrin.
    I don't take it all the time. Mostly in the winter when seasonal depression is more prevalent. I usually lay off in the spring and summer.
    Whether I take something for my condition is irrelevant. I still have to manage it whether I take drugs or not. The drugs just make it a little easier.

    I handle my ADD with strict time management. I find that I can do almost any chore for 15 minutes without getting distracted. If I try, I can work for a half hour. So, that's my goal. To work 30 minutes without stopping. Then I get to take a break. When the break's over, I go back to work for another half hour. I keep up that schedule until the job is done.

    I keep a written schedule of my day to keep my on track and I check off my chores as I finish them.

    If I stay on schedule and get all my things done for the whole week, I can go downstairs and work in the darkroom on Saturday as long as I want.
    (I find it a lot easier to stay on task when it's a self-directed activity.)

    Just a suggestion to throw against the wall and see if something sticks...
    How about you set up a schedule. Work time = X hours per day. Photography time = Y hours per day.
    You have specific days and times when you have to go to your day job or take care of chores. You have specific days and times when you can work on photography. At the end of the week, if you have kept your schedule, you can reward yourself with a day of doing whatever you want.

    I work in a college and I know a couple of students who have Asperger's. They seem to like the predictability of an orderly, predefined schedule.
    To be in class at specific times of day; to spend so many hours in the library studying; to be at their Work Study jobs on certain days/times.
    If I told them to meet me at the theater on Wednesday after lunch, you can bet they'll be standing in the doorway at 1:00 pm on the dot. If I was more than a few minutes late, they'd be unhappy with me. It seems to me that, order = comfort.

    I don't know if that's how you work. I know not everybody with A.S. works the same way.
    But you could give it a try. Sticking to a schedule helps me. A modified version of that idea might help you.
     
  20. lesm

    lesm Member

    Messages:
    104
    Joined:
    Sep 5, 2011
    Location:
    South Austra
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Your dilemma seems to me to be about context. If you put "the artistic life" in the context of "Aspergers," then you'll have an artistic life coloured by and tethered to your condition. You already know how that plays itself out in your life. As others have pointed out, there are many positives to this, not the least being a distinctly individual approach to image making. There are other contexts in your life, though, each of which could make their own contribution to your artistic output and perception of the artistic life. The contexts of work, family, physical body, spiritual beliefs, food etc. etc. can be woven into photography as legitimately as the Aspergers context and may be worth exploring. There have been countless great artists down the ages who have made choices about their particular set of contexts that may inspire you. May I encourage you to spend a bit of time in your local library reading about any that you feel produced the kind of work and led the kind of artistic life that you aspire to.

    And you don't have to be a "professional" and earn your living from art. The artistic life, as I see it, is about conducting your life artfully, creatively, in whatever you do. It doesn't have to involve making images. But if that's your pleasure, then add it to whatever else you have to do for the moment to keep body and soul together. That will be the context in which your artistic life can be nurtured. Let the Aspergers take care of itself.
     
  21. f/stopblues

    f/stopblues Member

    Messages:
    204
    Joined:
    Oct 6, 2005
    Location:
    Kansas City,
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    I wish I could remember the book, but I read a mention that Ansel Adams had strong Autistic tendencies, although wasn't diagnosed, likely a result of the times. It would certainly explain his depth of knowledge of his art.

    **PS. I don't claim this to be fact! Just a blurb I read at an unknown time from an unknown source. Use info at your discretion :smile:
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 29, 2012
  22. batwister

    batwister Member

    Messages:
    919
    Joined:
    Sep 4, 2010
    Location:
    Midlands, UK
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    Thanks for the responses.
     
  23. keithwms

    keithwms Member

    Messages:
    6,073
    Joined:
    Oct 14, 2006
    Location:
    Charlottesvi
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    I'll try to make a less flippant response than I did before.

    Like most people I know who do what I do, whether in my day job(s) or in photography or other creative pursuits, I do wonder if certain tendencies are gifts or curses. I don't know when I started having to worry about that but probably ever since I was forced to sit still in kindergarten :smile: If your goal in life as one of "our" kind of people is just to fit in, then you'll drive yourself mad. Embrace your differences of perspective, try not to freak people out, and be happy that artistic pursuits are a good outlet for you! Some people don't need that like bread and water... pity them and not yourself :wink:
     
  24. Alan Klein

    Alan Klein Member

    Messages:
    713
    Joined:
    Feb 7, 2011
    Location:
    New Jersey .
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    I don't know much about Aspergers, but I have a feeling you'll be fine. Alan.