The In-Focus Project runs an on-line photographic art gallery that is part of Community Services for Autistic Adults and Children (CSAAC) in Montgomery County, Maryland. The program teaches adults with autism the art of photography and helps sell the work on CSAAC’s website. In-Focus started in 2008 with six adults in order to bring out their artistic abilities and continues working with them today.
The group meets on a weekly basis. One week the participants will take photographs and then the following week they edit and print their favorites.
The brain-child of Craig Pardini—CSAAC’s Director of Facilities and a professional photographer himself at pardiniphotography.com–In-Focus was developed so that individuals with an interest in art could take photographs throughout the community. Significantly, the Project shines a light on what the participants choose to express; each photo is a snapshot of what they see as important, beautiful, striking or representative of their world.
Craig Pardini, Creator of InFocus Project
Director of Facilities at CSAAC
Craig and other instructors for the In-Focus Project volunteer their time so the participating photographers have a voice through these photos, whether verbal or not, they each gain a chance to tell their stories in photographs. The In-Focus Project has given participates a place to create art and develop communication skills.
Craig describes in what ways the particpants’ photography and communication skills have improved,
“When the program first started, nearly all the photos were blurry and subject matter was cut off. Over time, they became focused, sharp and with good composition.”
Indeed, one of Craig’s photography students advanced so far to submit a piece to the President. The individual was invited to the White House to photograph the President and a landing of Marine One.
“Over the past few years, some of the individuals are now able and willing to communicate with TV or reporters or others interested in their work. They feel comfortable discussing their artwork to outsiders and critique each other on their photographs.”
Craig offered two specific examples of photographers participating in the program and how they have grown. These are Brian and James.
“Brian is a natural at creating landscape-style images. He knows how to angle the camera to ensure the subject shows its natural beauty. He enjoys capturing ‘fine’ detail. With focusing on the small details, his photographs create scenes that can only come out of his imagination. His snaps are so elaborate that it is easy to miss some of the meticulously chosen elements that comprise his work. Photography is one of the few areas where the observer can see what an individual with autism sees or deems to be an important aspect of the stimuli that surround him.
“James is a natural with the quick shot. He has the ability to capture his subject in motion and centered in the frame. He enjoys photographing people and is a fine portrait artist. He would like to be a sports photographer one day and his work is mostly drawn from people that he meets along his photo shoots. He often creates scenes based upon seeing people in the community. His photography is equal parts expression, connection and reaction.”
In-Focus received a grant to assist with starting the program through the Letaw Foundation and they have an online store to help fund the program’s operating needs. The store offers the participants a place to display their pieces and opportunities to prepare them for sale and ship to buyers. The photographers themselves curate the gallery adding new photographs annually and perform a group effort in choosing the images that get published including commenting, critiquing and critique, comment and offer encouragement to each other.
The gallery can be found on the CSAAC website. Printed photographs sell for roughly $60.00 each and come in 8”x10” or 11”x14”.