In 1994, I began documenting the life of Charlie, a five-year-old boy with severe autism and profound learning difficulties. My good friend Cynthia Bartlett, Charlie’s mother, saw her one-year-old son develop the most severe level of autism within autistic spectrum disorder during his third year. Cynthia became a collaborator in a body of work that we felt would increase awareness of a disorder that was much less in the public eye 15 years ago.
Channel 4 commissioned a series of four ‘3-Minute Wonder’ short films consisting entirely of these still images and narrated by Cynthia. The series was broadcast in September 2005. A 12-minute version of the work, titled We Are Fine Enough, is posted here on my site in the ‘Film’ section. The colour images interspersed in this series are family snapshots from before I started this work.
Charlie died in 2012 at the age of 23. He was finally beginning to seek and enjoy social contact. Yet he continued to be self-injurious, he had no ability to speak and he was incontinent. He was dependent on his mother, his sisters Clara and Gabrielle and those around him for his basic care. Despite the difficulties he encountered at every step of his life, he came from an artistically accomplished family and he had a significant influence on many of us. He was an inspiration and he and his mother and sisters bring out the best in the people they know, especially me.