I met Tedo when he was four, a kid with amazingly big black eyes, so deep you could drown in them. Tedo was diagnosed with autism when he was two years old and when I met him, he was living in his own world and rarely communicated with the people around him.
When I started taking photographs, I was worried about how he would take it—if he would think it was fun or if the click of the camera would disturb him. But luckily Tedo really enjoyed the sound of the shutter and changed emotions and postures after every click. After dozens of shots he asked to stop. That's how our friendship started.
Tedo’s diagnosis totally changed the lives of his parents and other family members. It took time understanding how to treat a child with autism, as well as accept and adapt to Tedo’s condition. I think only a parent full of unconditional love and patience can raise an autistic child, especially in Georgia, where this diagnosis is still stigmatized and not even recognized by a huge part of society.
Still awareness about the autism spectrum has tremendously grown in Georgia. I remember when children with autism were locked up in their rooms, and their parents would never mention them, as it was a shame for a family having a "crazy" and "sick" kid. Now there are more resources available for the children and their families.
Being on the autism spectrum means Tedo is more sensitive to some issues, like loud noises and bright light. Regardless of his diagnosis, he is still a child who deserves equal opportunities and the quality of life as everyone else.
Tedo is a very creative child: he paints, plays music, sings and has plenty of interests. He speaks several languages he learned on his own. As a photographer, I wanted to find a way to show others how he sees the world. So, when I went to visit Tedo and his family this summer, I brought a film camera for Tedo to see if he would enjoy taking photos.
The result is this essay, which shows two perspectives of Tedo’s life - one seen through his eyes, his imagination and his world, and another from my perspective as an observer.
The photos story was prepared with support from the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES) South Caucasus Regional Office. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views of FES.