When my younger brother was diagnosed with regressive autism, I did everything I could to facilitate his treatment. At age eight, that meant keeping busy and requesting little. It meant doing homework in hospital waiting rooms, not asking about the nutritional supplements that lined our kitchen counters, and listening to my parents’ hushed conversations about how they planned to pay for all the related expenses. Once spunky and extroverted, I spent the next several years slipping into a cocoon of quiet observation.
Over the years, I have developed a coherent narrative about how my brother’s autism has shaped me for the better: how witnessing my parents' tireless battle with our public school system taught me the power of advocacy, how caring for a younger sibling developed my own maternal tendencies, and how eventually partaking in intensive home therapies sparked my interest in psychology. My brother was once a non-verbal toddler trapped in his own world, but after years of therapeutic and biomedical interventions, he overcame most hallmark traits of autism. It’s a rare and lucky story of success.
There’s a certain convenience in rehearsing this narrative. It’s easy to talk about adversity when you’re living in its resolution; when you can point to the hard parts and know they won’t return. But it’s also easy to seek comfort in a past life when everything about the present seems unresolved. Metronome attempts to connect these two worlds. By pairing present-day photographs alongside memories from a past self, I explore what is lost and kept over time.
I start with his therapy binders. Stored neatly on our attic shelves, they seem stale in their documentation of symptoms no longer seen — my brother’s inability to respond to his own name, for instance, or his forced rehearsal of imaginative play. At the time, I didn’t realize that skills — or the edible treats that reinforced them — could be broken into a thousand pieces.
And so, my project started with grids: systems that track progress precisely in their reduction of human potential. In all their transparency, these charts — these frameworks of checks and minuses — reveal so little about my brother’s journey. And yet, they are what started it. Rigidity ultimately trained my brother to think freely — to love, to question, and to feel. But with liberation comes heartache. When there are no clear answers, rigidity makes his knuckles bleed.
I, too, am tangled in those grids. Through photography, I inserted myself into a physical and emotional space that I had been trying to escape for years. Why, then, do I keep coming back?
Metronome is about reversal — a back and forth between places and ages and hope.
Metronome is about repetition — routines that are comforting, yet stifling, in their predictability.
Metronome is about rootedness — an attachment to people, to place, and to purpose.
This is my story, too.