In 2012, while finishing his documentary studies at a Belgian cinema school, Lionel Jusseret began to photograph the autistic children he was working with as part of an association. His resulting body of work, titled “Kinderszenen” (The Scene of Childhood), is comprised of a simultaneously intimate and dramatic series of images. Jusseret’s cinematic training is clear from his powerful use of light and the abrupt, intense way he confronts his subjects; at the same time, his bond with the children is obvious from the delicate and unexpected moments he has captured.
In his words:
Between the inadequacy of medical institutions and the feeling of exile for those living in Belgian mental hospitals, autistic individuals face grave challenges in the world today. Within this context, an association in France offers autistic children an opportunity to live collectively in country houses across rural parts of the country.
Most of these children do not speak. Despite their silence, the means they eventually find to communicate are unique to each one, sometimes almost magical. Still, this is not to romanticize their difficulties. This particular childhood is brutal and honest. Immersion is powerful, but the work is exhausting. There is no manual for how to enter into each child’s very specific world. The idea is to find a gateway with each one—but only they can open the door, and only if they want to. Being with them oscillates constantly between ultra-violence and pure sweetness…
If you’re interested in seeing more work on this and similar topics, we’d recommend the following articles: Great Interactions, Polly Braden’s award-winning work on the experiences of people with learning disabilities and autism; My Star Wars Family, striking portraits of the everyday experiences in a family with autistic children; and Infliction, portraits by Heiko Tiemann that document the transition from childhood to adulthood for several individuals with learning disabilities.