Charles Cotugno and Carrie Anciaux Take Powerful Photographs for 'Stories of Autism" Photo Series


One woman is using the power of photography to give families affected by autism a much-needed sense of community.

In 2005, photographer Charles Cotugno started a small portrait project called “Stories of Autism.” In 2009, it became an official nonprofit organization, and in 2011, photographer Carrie Anciaux took the project to the next level.

In her three years with the project, she’s photographed 40 subjects. Each portrait includes a place for subjects’ families to write their story on Anciaux’s blog.

 “A few words that define Wiley are: awesome big brother, lover of Thomas the Train, considerate, smart, and excitable. One word that does not define him: autism.”
— Shelly, Wiley’s mother

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“We have learned to celebrate the small moments of parenting.”
— Sarah and Jack, Lyla’s parents

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Anciaux is a speech and language pathologist who took a few years off to do photography full-time.

“I found [‘Stories of Autism’] online by accident,” she told The Mighty in a phone interview. “I thought it was great for me because it combined my two interests, photography and working with people with special needs.”

Although Anciaux doesn’t have a child with autism, she says she can’t help but recognize the impact her work has on families that do.

“I’ve noticed mostly that this project gives families a voice — a chance to explain to the world how autism affects their lives, daily,” Anciaux told The Sun Prairie Star. “I know some families hope that, by writing their story, it may increase tolerance in the community for people who are different than them.”

On Aug. 2, Anciaux organized the second annual picnic for the “Stories of Autism” subjects at her home in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin. About 75 people got together to engage in a bevy of autism-friendly activities like pony rides, a bouncy house and face painting, according The Star. The event ended with everyone releasing butterflies to symbolize the spread of autism acceptance.

“[The project] is much bigger than me,” Anciaux told The Mighty. “I’m just trying to take it to the next level.”

She continues to seek subjects with autism for her blog to spread awareness and give families an outlet to express the powerful emotions they experience every day.

“This has been great for myself too. I like meeting nice families who deal with these challenges every day,” Anciaux said. “I find that most stories have a theme which is ‘gratitude.’ The small moments in the day when it’s kind of successful and something to celebrate. I think that’s taught me a lot too as a mom.”

You can view more of Anciaux photos below and on her blog.

“If you have a disability, you might have an enhanced ability that hasn’t been disabled.”
— Morton Jr.

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“He emotes without a filter. He loves deeply. He trusts wholeheartedly. He is not bashful, meek or timid. He is himself 100 percent of the time.”
— Sarah and Jesse, Aaron’s parents

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“We think the sky’s the limit for our boys.”
— Kate, Jack’s mom

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“Be the best advocate for your child as you can be.”
— Angie, Brody’s mom

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All photos courtesy of Carrie Anciaux Photography.

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