Why Do You? Episode 3 – Timothy Archibald
On this third episode, Ryan hosts world famous photographer Timothy Archibald who is known for Echolilia, a photo series depicting his son’s life with autism. Before Timothy learned of his son’s diagnosis at age 6, Timothy was a first-time parent struggling to understand his son, Eli and his motivations and struggling to find out why it was hard to connect with him.
Timothy followed his passion of being a photographer his whole life and gravitated towards photography together with Eli. As a photographer, he used it as an escape from his normal life. He used to meet other people from other cultures and travel the world. “It was almost like my world had been very big and every day with the challenges with Eli, it was like my world was getting smaller and smaller” is how he perceived it at the time. Every day Timothy was struck with this question, “why is he so different?”.
Things started to look up when he brought out his camera and when he realized that Eli wanted to participate in the act of photography. Things like getting his son to brush his teeth or go to bed were difficult tasks, but taking photographs together was a different story. They finally had something they could do together. This led to a project series, Echolilia and a book called Echolilia: Sometimes I Wonder. Through his photography, he was able to discover the world and how his son was perceiving it.
This project was more than just a project for Eli and Timothy. Photography helped them become equals.Timothy no longer tries to fix the problem, instead focusing on investing in their relationship.
Ryan speaks more about his experience growing up with Duchenne’s and his realization that everyone’s path is different. With a diagnosis of a rare disease, there are commonalities that at this age, one should expect this and so on. However, none of those predictions came to life for Ryan. As Ryan implies, life is gray and there are no definite answers.
Timothy, as the parent with a son who has autism has projected his insecurities and feelings of embarrassment onto Eli. Timothy explains to Ryan that he was trying to comfort his son with words “there is nothing to be ashamed of” when it was something Eli wasn’t aware of in the first place. Eli expressed what it meant for him to be autistic at an exhibition and his blunt answer meant that he felt normal and it’s all he has ever experienced.
Twenty-year-old Eli is interested in politics and is pursuing Political Science. His analytical view helps him not to be tainted by either side.
Timothy values his distant kind of relationship with Ryan and it was with a resounding ‘yes’ that he was open to share his side of the story on the podcast.