Autism In Reflection series 6169 | Photograph 2012

Stories from the Art: Bruce Hall


“My work is an extension of my ability to see. It’s really that simple. It’s a desire to see the world in all its glorious detail.”

Portrait by: Chris Voelker

When one thinks of a photographer, someone with a keen eye comes to mind, and Bruce Hall does have a keen eye, but not in the usual sense. He is legally blind and his list of visual disorders is staggering – but so is his ability to capture beauty with his camera, beauty that is nearly invisible to him before he gets home to his computer and magnifies the images.

Photographer, teacher, autism advocate, Bruce has been seeing the world in detail through cameras since he was a boy. The world as a whole is a moving blur to Bruce, although he can focus on an object a few inches from his eyes. “I use photography to pull the world in.”

A scuba diver for 30 years, Bruce notices the small objects on rocks and reefs, and animals that others may pass by; his ability to pinpoint his focus gives him a distinct outlook on close up shots, and they are superb. “I was always fascinated with tiny things, things that no one else was interested in, things that no one could really see. I would photograph it, blow it up and look at it. To this day I am constantly looking at photographs. I look at hundreds of photographs a day."

He admits that like most photographers, he has found the need to control his environment in order to obtain the photos he wants. Though while shooting his boys, he has had to let go of some of that control. His twin boys are profoundly autistic, non-verbal and very low functioning. “I got into my son’s space and followed him, holding a small camera in a water- proof housing. We were just rushing around after each other. It was the first time I let the control go, the first time I had let loose of my photography. Because I am legally blind, I have had to really push myself to make good photographs, to get the focus, to get the exposure – on that day, I didn’t care, we were going to have fun.”

This ability Bruce has to let things flow through his camera is one way he connects with his boys. “Profound autism can be a harsh reality” Bruce says, “My motivation is connection; to connect with my sons-to look at my boys. As it is, they are most often in their own world and I am in a jittery world without detail and clarity.” Bruce is a great dad as well as being a great photographer. “I have to laugh sometimes, ‘here I am, a legally blind photographer chasing after profoundly autistic boys - around the yard, in the pool - it’s really a chaotic scene. It’s like some crazy street photography.’ Letting go and embracing the 'chance' of the moment has revealed, for me, the heartbreak and beauty of my boy’s autism.”

Often his photos involve water. In the bath, or the pool, or in the yard with a hose; the freedom and energetic release connected with splashing, squirting, drenching and soaking is a cathartic act for the whole family. The boys focus in water in a way that they can’t otherwise. In speaking of photographing his boys, Bruce says “They don’t pose for anyone; they don’t hold still for anyone, they don’t do what you ask of them. They are who they are, and really that is the beauty of it.”

Autism In Reflection series 7759 | Photograph 2010
Autism In Reflection series 0740 | Photograph 2010
©2013 Inland Empire Museum of Art
All Art © by The Artist
Curator: Gene Sasse
Writer: Laurie Morrison