I am an Afro-Dominican writer, photographer, and community organizer born and raised in the Bronx, New York. My parents always had an obsession with photographing our lives ever since I was a baby. As a child, I...
"Tucked Away" began in 2016 in the Bronx, New York and it portrays two young autistic boys living in the Bronx. The first is my 20-year-old brother Jeffrey Espinosa. He is autistic, non-verbal, and diagnosed with cerebral palsy. He requires virtually total support for basic needs, such as eating, bathing, and traveling. The second is Jayden, a 5-year old boy with autism who lives with his working-class single mother in the Bronx. Jayden is a higher-functioning autistic boy who can speak and interact with others much easier than Jeffrey. However, Jayden’s mother often struggles to balance her work and home life as she cares for her son mostly on her own. As the project moves forward, I plan to document one or two more autistic people, preferably females.
These images document some of what it’s like to live as an autistic person, a reality that is often unknown to many people. This work is part of an ongoing project in which I aim to showcase the day-to-day trials and tribulations of being an autistic person in a low-income family. This is the inspiration for my photo essay title: "Tucked Away." Very little coverage is shown in the news and film industry about low-income autistic people and the compounded financial hardships that amplify the difficult conditions of their disabilities. They are, in essence, "tucked away" from society. I would like to let the world know that this community exists, is still struggling, and needs more help. I aim to expose the fact that not enough services and resources are allocated by the government to support these families. This situation often forces some in the family to quit their job in order to care for their autistic relatives, most of whom are also unemployed due to their physical limitations. This ultimately perpetuates the cycle of poverty among families with disabled relatives.
I witness and experience this every day in my own family. Now it is my duty to use my camera and bring light to this issue in order to push for more immediate support of low-income autistic people. I hope that these images can inspire people to provide these necessary changes and benefits to those affected families.
My vision is that this project can be a potential springboard to inspire autistic people to pick up a camera themselves and document their own stories and perspectives. This is similar to the study done by the University of Missouri’s Thompson Center for Autism and Developmental Disabilities, where they partnered with PhotoVoice and allowed study participants to use photography to identify and share their experiences. I hope to inspire autistic people to come out behind the curtain that has been placed in front of them by others who are ashamed of them being different than the norm. Autistic people should know that they are beautiful and perfect just the way they are. Sometimes it takes a beautiful visual representation of them to see that truth for themselves.