Falmouth student’s photo series unmasks the reality of growing up with Autism and ADHD

02 April 2024

Photography: person holding another person by the wrists
Meltdown - Emily June Smith

Meltdown, Emily June Smith

Type: Text
Category: Student stories

Emily June Smith is third-year Photography BA student at Falmouth University. A neurodivergent visual artist, Emily’s latest photographic project, 'A Dissonant Past Unmasked', aims to bring the realities of navigating life with Autism and ADHD into the light. 

Project statement

“Remember you weren’t the one who made you ashamed, but you are the one who can make you proud.” - Laura Hershey 

At primary school, a teacher told me I would end up in prison. I struggled more at home. Diagnosed since childhood with ADHD and Autism, my shouting and hitting no-one looked forward to. Stigmatised by the community, and isolated without adequate training, my family and I had to learn to cope. For me, I morphed myself to fit in, by hiding behind imaginary masks. 

A Dissonant Past Unmasked is a photographic project positioning my family and myself inside re-enactments of our lives. Private sufferings from the past are performed against the backdrop of suburban domesticity. Traversing bygone ruptures, my autobiographical approach is an attempt to acknowledge my history. By confronting my difficult past, I am looking for catharsis and closure within quiet scenes of dissonance. 

The complexities of disability are circumvented by society, as they seemingly misalign with standardised social norms. This has left us with no voice and our stories often told for us by someone else. I shine a light on my challenges, in the hope of encouraging others to take back control of their lives. In doing so, I seek to alter the way disability has been side-stepped by bringing visibility where there had been none.

By Emily June Smith

About the artist

Emily June Smith is a Romford based neurodivergent artist working at the intersection between photography and performance. Her work strays from traditional modes of documentary photography to explore personal and social contexts.

Situated between the public and the private, the local and the global, the personal and political, Emily is interested in giving voice to misunderstood and underrepresented communities. Her practice helps her to better understand the everyday and to make sense of life around her.  

Embracing who she is after years of struggling has allowed her to view the world in a way that is both beautiful and confusing at the same time. Emily uses her art to resolutely self-represent and to represent those that have been marginalised by society. She is a member of the Zinnia Collective.

Explore more of Emily’s work on Instagram: @emilyjunesmithy 

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