Erin Lefevre
Liam’s World

In medical terms, autism is a complex neurological developmental disorder. However, this does not necessarily help relatives or the estimated 67 million people worldwide who are affected to understand those who have autism. Liam, 19, brother to American photographer Erin Lefevre, was diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder at a young age. Six years ago, the photographer started photographing Liam’s daily life in order to better understand how he sees the world. Lefevre does more than observe: she wants to know what her brother thinks and feels when she photographs him, and she lets him write his own caption for every photo. Beneath one of his portraits, Liam has written “I am most proud of who I am”. With these phrases, he determines how he and his story should be seen. This photo-reportage provides Liam with public awareness and is intended to inspire people with special needs to share their life stories with us.

  • Discrimination
  • Everyday Life
  • Family
  • Identity
  • Youth

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Erin Lefevre talks about her work “Liam’s World” and overcoming stereotypical beliefs on what life with autism is like.

»I didn’t see families like mine represented in mainstream media.«

Erin Lefevre
3 Questions
1. The door opener: Can you describe a formative moment in your career as a visual journalist?

Liam was initially hesitant about having his story shared publicly but became comfortable after we had talked through his fears. I reminded him the project would help people understand autism and that autism is just a part of who he is – it does not completely define him. When the story was published for the first time, Liam was overwhelmed with love and support from all over the world. Liam went from being ashamed of his autism to proudly owning it, in a little over a year. This formative experience shows the impact our photographs have and how photography can be used as a tool for positive change.

2. The decisive moment: When did you first encounter your topic and why did you decide to cover it photographically?

I had a difficult time understanding Liam’s autism and how it impacted him as a person. When I began studying Documentary Photography, I wanted to photograph Liam to better understand him. I kept the work private for a long time because editors would say things like “It doesn’t look like there’s anything wrong with him” and dismiss the work. Debunking the stereotypes surrounding autism became my agenda. These stories matter and they deserve to be told with caring and empathetic eyes. The handwritten captions were incorporated to uplift Liam and give him authority over how his story is told.

3. The future: What could the visual journalism of the future be like?

Heterogeneous newsrooms. Restored trust between communities and the media. Telling stories with integrity, empathy, and compassion. Calling out institutions that don’t support photographers and perpetuate industry elitism. Starting our own organisations, grants, platforms, and publications. Liveable rates for assignments. The option to unionise. Affordable healthcare. Protection from editors who abuse their power. Pulling up a chair for all the people who were previously denied a seat at the table. Revolutionising the way we tell stories. This is the future visual journalism deserves.

Curated by Marie Kolb

© for all photos by the photographers
© for videos Lumix Festival Hanover, if not indicated otherwise.

*1993 in New York, USA
Erin Lefevre is a professional photographer and teacher. Growing up in Hell’s Kitchen, a neighbourhood in New York City, aroused her interest in using photography as a means to create awareness for under-represented social topics in the USA. As an art educator, she works with children with special needs in Queens. She believes in the transformative power that art can have on the young.


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