“I want to help people to understand that autism is a different way of experiencing life and that being different is OK but being different is definitely not easy”.

Understanding Stanley – Looking Through Autism is a unique and useful, beautiful and accessible photostory that communicates a powerful new visual language for autism, whilst reflecting on and challenging our ideas of communication, perception and perspective.

Over 14 years in the making, the 64 colour images – a mixture of observed portraits of her son and images that represent autistic characteristics and experiences – are supported by quotes and comments from those on the autism spectrum.

“I was always struck by the frequent comment – ‘he looks fine to me, you’d never know’. With 1 in 68 of us now living on the autism spectrum, I wanted to create something quite different in the awareness, understanding and acceptance of this hugely complex condition. Something that would resonate and actually have the ability to reach out beyond the small audience of text book readers on the subject. We all will already have autism in our lives. Whether that be within our own family, our workplace or our local community”.

Understanding Stanley is a very real piece of communication that has reached far beyond the photography community. Rosie makes the invisible visible and allows the reader to feel, not just to think and leaves a very powerful feeling of just how much the rest of us take for granted in the way we interact with the world around us.

Through a very successful Kickstarter campaign, the work was published last year as a photobook and has been endorsed by the UK’s two main autism charities (National Autistic Society and Ambitious About Autism) and by well known figures within both the autism and photography communities and beyond. The book has sold widely and is now in every continent across the world.

“I don’t believe in God sometimes, but I think he sent us here today to discover our son”. (translated)

Anon, visitor to Understanding Stanley exhibition, Bratislava, Slovakia

Understanding Stanley seeks to include and embrace and is an important piece of work for every one of us.

The Book

Rosie Barnes

Rosie Barnes is a documentary photographer based in London. With a strong and distinctive narrative style, she is particularly interested in issues around disability and also with the environment and our relationship with the natural world. Her images are disarmingly simple and yet potent and evocative, communicating at an emotional level, which is quietly powerful. But there is also a great deal of humour in many of her projects and ideas. And she is passionate about breaking out of the photography ‘bubble’ and getting work to as wide an audience as possible.

A graduate of Brighton University, she has had work shown at the National Portrait Gallery, the Photographers’ Gallery, the National Media Museum (formerly National Museum of Photography Bradford) in the UK, in photo festivals, galleries and publications in the UK and across Europe including Hereford, Paris, Sweden, Frankfurt and Bratislava and in publications including the Guardian Magazine, Foto8 Magazine and the Frankfurter Rundschau.