It began when photographer, Timothy Archibald, started documenting his five year old son, Elijah’s, peculiar mannerisms to show behavioral specialists. Repetitive behaviors that were difficult for Archibald to understand, an obsession for mechanical objects and being socially withdrawn were characteristics that eventually led to Elijah’s diagnosis of autism.
As Archibald continued to photograph Elijah, Elijah became interested in the process of making the images and would provide input on changing the setting or the position. And the project, “Echolilia,” was born. Echolilia is a term the refers to the repetition of words or phrases which is often a symptom of those diagnosed with autism.
“The shoots last ten minutes at the most, but its ten minutes of hyper focus on his part. Sometimes I lead, sometimes he leads. And now it seems like we’ve learned what each other would want out of a shot…so its a collective brain a bit. I think he knows that we need to make these images, to figure something out.”
Three years after he began, the collaboration has helped Archibald go from thinking “I can’t raise this kid; I can’t relate to him at all,’’ to building a bridge of mutual respect and understanding between father and son.
“We had this mutual sense of discovery,” Archibald says. “Eli and I stopped photographing Echolilia when we realized we were done. We had nothing left to discover with photography…we had built a bridge of sorts and didn’t really need this tool anymore.”
You can see more images in his book, Echolilia, or on Timothy Archibald’s website.