Posted by: Aspie Noodle | February 8, 2013

Through Aspie Eyes

“Why do you always take photos of boring things?” – neuro-typical friends

Boring things.

Things.

cup

I did not fully understand why I did this, or that it wasn’t the “norm”, until a few months ago.

All my life my eyes have zoomed in on all the little details. Everywhere. My parents are active people and I grew up in a big city, half of which used to be closed off from us until 1989. Every weekend we would go on exploration trips through streets and neighbourhoods that were new to us. And every time I saw so many things. I would often trail behind (“stop dreaming and keep up!”), and I would soak up a lot of little details that would nestle in my mind and make me think. “Who put this there?” “Did they lose it?” “Why do traffic lights have yellow numbers on them?”

By the end of the trip I’d have so many disjointed questions about things that I had been the only one to notice to begin with. My parents were really patient, but they still didn’t have most of the answers. Although I was occasionally praised for my attention to details, it never sunk in that what comes so easy to me, or rather, what I get bombarded with on a daily basis–whether I can handle it or not–isn’t something other people experience the way I do.

pedestrians

When I travel, or walk anywhere, I still look at all the details. Numbers, logos, aligning shapes, parallel lines, birds, tags and rogue ad stickers, posters that have been glued crookedly, street art.

I don’t take in my surroundings as a whole. I can walk down a street every day for five years and will still not be able to visualise how many stories the houses consist of. But I’d know that the second house on the left always has daffodils in their front garden in spring, and there is a white cat with one blue and one green eye at the house with the many bicycles under their windows.

Of course I’ve always been sort of aware that the kind of data I gathered and stored in my mind was generally considered… “quirky”. I had pretty much figured out early on that people thought I was a bit weird, but those who mattered did not seem to love me any less. I thought that what set me slightly apart was was what I do with the information once it is inside my head, but it did not cross my mind that the difference was in my actual perception.

ropesLast year, after I was official diagnosed, and after a short period of final denial, I began reading and watching anything I could find about Asperger’s. I came across a German documentary by a popular science TV program where a man with Asperger’s was interviewed about how he sees the world. They gave him a video camera and let him walk through the city to film the things he noticed. He filmed numbers, licence plates, street art, leaves, litter. All the things I would also instantly notice, stare at, and ponder about. Then they went on to compare his footage with what “normal” people would see instead.

That was when I realised that how I see things is truly different.

I think one of my biggest discoveries, or realisations, with all this is that people’s brains work differently. I never thought about that during the previous three decades of my life, always just assuming that the way I experienced things was how everybody else did as well. Therapists seem to like blaming that on a “lack of empathy”, but I have yet to meet a neuro-typical who is automatically aware of other people’s ways of thinking. They assume just as much. We simply cannot look into each others’ heads. None of us can. We go by what we know, and we know what is inside our own heads.

Now that I understand that my constant observation of details has to do with how my brain is wired, and that it’s a different viewpoint to how other people see things, I have embraced all the things. I will stare at licence plates (and, when in trusty company, read them out loud to a point of annoyance–but that’s for another blog post >_>) , and I will take photos of everything I find interesting. As a result, when my significant other and I go on vacation and we both bring our own camera, we have a very interesting, and complementary mix of panorama shots and well… details.

It works nicely.

ladybug

It also helps us to see each other’s point of view, and going through vacation pictures can be quite a discovery.

“Where was that?”

“Next to the blue mailbox. When we had ice cream.”

“You mean in front of the big department store?”

“There was a department store?”

Fun times. 😀

Taking pictures of what I notice helps me give it a place and reduces the chaos inside my head. There is, of course, the obstacle of drawing attention from strangers when I squat down to take a photo of a piece of gum wrapper in the gutter, but I’m working on perfecting that wall, that armour that will shield me from others in situations like that. Why should I care what they think of me? Especially since they probably think nothing of me to begin with. They might not even notice me, because chances are their brain does not work like mine.

So I’ve been brave enough to bring my camera along a lot more often, and that threshold to take it out of my bag and snap a few photos is much easier to overcome. My diagnosis has really helped me understand and love myself a lot more. I no longer struggle with these “quirks”, this nonconformity.

I’m slowly learning to embrace it.

daisies

(all photos by Aspie Noodle)

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Responses

  1. I like your detail pics! I was just thinking that’s totally something I would stop for and take a picture of – even though I don’t have Asperger’s! My “problem” is that I often think twice about snapping a piece of gum paper in a gutter because I wonder what people will think. That way, I’ve probably missed lots of great photo opportunities… Looking forward to seeing more of your detail photography.

    • Thank you!

      Yes, I’m working on letting my inner photographer instincts win from that restrictive “what-will-people-think?” worry. For me it depends on the day and what kind of mood I’m in. ^_^


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