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On Photography, Business, and Aspergers

For those who are not familiar with Aspergers Syndrome, there are good explanations elsewhere on the web. One of them is Wikipedia.

Earlier this year I was diagnosed with mild Aspergers. This is something, that up until now, I have shared with very few people. The diagnosis was actually a relief. So many things in my life have now been explained. Aspergers is not a handicap in the traditional sense. The biggest problem for me has been a complete lack of social skills, as anyone who really knows me can attest. Aspergers is a big part of who I am.

I started my photography business three years ago with the encouragement of my wife. At that time we had no clue about Aspergers. A key in any business is social skills. I bet you can see the conflict here. When I started the business I decided that I did not want to deal with weddings, children, portraits, or parties. The reasoning at the time was I had no interests in those things and I knew that my people skills were weak. A good decision that now has a medical basis.

So where do I go from here? I have my own photography business. I possess very few social skills and even less desire to learn those skills. Even with not shooting social events or people directly, I still must have the ability to meet with and talk to clients in way they are accustomed to in business situations. The necessary skills can be learned by people with Aspergers. My desire to be successful with my business outweighs my lack of desire to learn social skills. With help from various sources I am learning to be more socially acceptable. People with Aspergers can be successful in business, look at Bill Gates for one.

Why photography? I love taking pictures. I am a bit of an anomaly in the field of photography. Many photographers are creative, abstract thinkers. I am just the opposite. I am a detailed oriented thinker, a trait of people with Aspergers. There are niches in the field of photography that cater to the more detailed inclined photographers. I have little interest in those areas. A common trait of Aspies (people with Aspergers) and other types of autism is the thought process. Most of us think in pictures at least some of the time. A good book on the subject is "Thinking in Pictures" by Temple Grandin. For me photography is a method to capture scenes the way I see them. I can then share those pictures with others and hopefully convey how I see things in a way that I can't do with words. Pictures are easy, words are difficult.

A big part of business development today is the use of social media. A key word here is social. To the aspie, that word can be kryptonite. As I have discussed in another blog, I am trying to use the social media tools that are available. As I blog I am constantly thinking about my own feelings towards social media. Who cares what I have to say? I certainly don't care what most other people have to say in their blogs. But I do find some to be interesting. I have to force myself to realize that these tools are a way of letting possible customers know more about me and my business. I also realize that most people are not like me and are actually interested in what others have to say. A concept that I may never fully comprehend. I do care what others have to say if it is a subject that I have an interest in or may affect me in some way. Tweeting is still totally foreign. I have started following people and businesses that are photography related as well as the local news. These are things that interests me or me affect me. I have garnered a few followers so far. I have followed back because that's the way to be social. I have found that I really do not care what many of these people are tweeting about. Maybe I'll learn how to use all of these tools effectively at some point in the near future.

After I started my business, I struggled with creating a look and feel for the various things needed for the business. Things such as business cards, website design, what fonts to use, and a logo. The single hardest thing was logo design. Professional logo design services are very expensive and really don't seem to want your business unless they can have creative control. Excuse me, this is MY business and I am the one with creative control. I had many ideas through the first two plus years of the business. The thoughts of incorporating a camera into the logo or using one of my pictures somehow always seemed to be central. No matter what my wife or I came up with seemed to be right. After the diagnosis of Aspergers Syndrome, everything fell into place. While Aspergers has no official symbol (a common symbol is a rainbow), autism does. The symbol for autism awareness is a puzzle piece or pieces in various colors. I noticed many photography related businesses use a stylized picture of a camera shutter. I drew my own version of a six bladed shutter. In the middle I wanted to use multi-colored puzzle pieces to represent my Aspergers. I filled in the shutter blades with three puzzle pieces and used pure red, green, and blue as the piece colors. The choice of colors brings everything together. Red, green, and blue are the primary colors of photography, hence the common RGB designations. With these three colors, all colors of the rainbow are possible. I drew and colored everything by hand and found a local company that said they would help with the conversion to the various digital formats I needed. When they discovered that I had designed the logo and just really needed the conversion work, they wouldn't even respond to my emails. A friend at work (yes, I still have a day job) does some design work on the side, mostly vinyl signs and so forth. I asked him if he could digitize my design, he could and did for a very reasonable price. The result is a logo that my wife and I love.

Aspergers Syndrome can be limiting in many ways. It also provides access to paths that are not well traveled. Aspies travel these paths and can do great things. It is commonly believed that Albert Einstein suffered from Aspergers Syndrome. You probably know several aspies in your own life. Aspies have the ability to conquer whatever it is that they have decided to conquer. My own battle is to build my photography business to success. There are obstacles that may be bigger for me than for an NT (neuro-typical or normal person), but I am also free to explore areas not seen by others. Photography is my outlet to share my vision, the vision of an Aspie, of the the world around me. The business? Why not? I am an outstanding photographer with the desire to succeed. Aspergers Syndrome has provided me with a unique skill set and tools to make that happen.

Posted by Patrick G. Welch Friday, December 02, 2011

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