Young man with autism turns to photography for communication

For some of us, photography is a hobby. For others, it’s a way to make a living. For Forrest Sargent, a 22-year-old with autism who is unable to speak, it’s a veritable lifeline. His communication is limited to spelling out words using a letter board, a method which allowed him a much-needed way to express himself. 

Beyond that, he communicates with a gift from his parents bought for his 19th birthday: a camera. His photos capture family and landscapes, and perhaps most importantly, open up another avenue of expression to him. In his own words, photography gives him ‘a way to show my feelings and my real mind’.

In an article in the Bellingham Herald, his parent explain how they ‘installed a grip handle at the bottom of a point-and-shoot camera to help him manage’, and how Forrest – who suffers from medication-induced tremors – has adopted the habit of taking five pictures at a time to maximize the chances of getting a sharp image. 

 Photo by Forrest Sargent.
 Photo by Forrest Sargent.
 Photo by Forrest Sargent.
 Photo by Forrest Sargent.

Some of Forrest Sargent’s images might look like little more than snapshots, but his work is a welcome reminder that for some people, photography is about a lot more than learning techniques and collecting expensive gear. 

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RD Flashbulb

Photography is a way of communicating, and Forest Sargent has discovered its strength. Using images to say “Look at the beauty of nature around us, in the things we see every day, though perhaps only in a fleeting way, but I was there. I saw this. It is wonderful. Look!” is a fundamental use of photography. Forest Sargent, in my opinion, does this very well. RDF

Jeff Greenberg

If this is work of photo savant,
its probably the images that are
NOT being shown that have been
dismissed as mistakes by newspaper
photo editor, but are, paradoxically,
breaking new ground…?


It is more of sympathy than appreciation. Had you not mentioned that this is a work of autistic, I am pretty sure bashing will go all over the place.

carlos roncatti

if you understand that his difficulties are far worse than ours, his pictures are not just good, they are far better than what we see here at dpreview. Simply as that. And i’ ve seen much worse photos here.


I thought the article was not about the quality of his “work”, but about how photography helped him to communicate… and also, maybe, find a meaning for its life…


True way of communicating !!!


An awesome feel good story, thanks for the reality-check dpreview and Bellingham Herald.

Stealthy Ninja

I don’t think anyone is going to do much of a critique on his work.

I’ll just say, it’s nice he has a way of communicating. 🙂

Waimak Stud

Actually, good use of negative space, leading lines, rule of thirds. His pictures stand up to critique even. A good heartwarming story.


Thank you for posting this story. I had purchased a p&s camera for a young lady who has autism. Photography is not just a way of communication, but it opens up a whole new world. My little friend has always been aware of the beauty in nature, and now she can capture it. This in itself gives her confidence – and is a source of joy (and fun) in her life.

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