Longlisted for OD Photo Prize 2023

(Un)masking is an exploration of my own late-discovered neurodivergence and the concept of ‘masking’ – a survival strategy used by people on the autism spectrum to blend into a world designed for – and by – neurotypicals.

Here, I pair my childhood photographs with words to explore  the duality of my existence on the spectrum – the person I thought I was and the person I now recognise myself to be. This journey is presented as a series of dialogues between photographs and texts, weaving through the past and the present, capturing the unique intricacies of the female autistic experience discovered late in life.  

These dialogues, while deeply personal, touch upon a universal theme. They invite us to think about how societal norms shape us, the experience of being seen as ‘different’, and what it truly means to unmask when masking is so integrated into your behaviour that it becomes impossible to untangle it from your very identity.

The Zine

The resulting body of work is presented in an intimate 32 page zine, printed of recycled uncoated 135gsm paper. The zine is sold out but I have a few library copies remaining – please get in touch if your organisation would like one.

The Next Stage – a Collaborative Book

For the next stage of this project, I’m inviting YOU to co-create a book of our collective experiences as late diagnosed (or self-diagnosed) neurodivergent women.

If you’ve been late-diagnosed or late-discovered (self-diagnosed) as autistic, ADHD or AuDHD, please submit your own childhood photographs and words to reflect on your own experience of neurodivergence in light of your new understanding of yourself.

These new dialogues will be kept anonymous and not directly attributed to any particular individual in order to protect everyone’s privacy and create a narrative about our collective experiences on the spectrum. However, you can opt to be mentioned in the acknowledgements at the end of the future publication (or you can opt to remain anonymous altogether if you are not yet comfortable sharing the fact of your neurodivergence publicly).

What to submit:

1. Between 1 and 5 of your own childhood photographs that you wish to share with this project.

Ideally, these need to be scanned in resolution of at least 150dpi. If you don’t have a scanner, use a phone scanner app or photograph your images instead. There are lots of tutorials online on how to do this well. Photographs should be in .jpeg format and can be colour or black and white. If you’re not sure what resolution your photos are (and have no idea what that even is), just send what you have and I’ll deal with the rest.

2. Words to be paired with your photographs (I’ll do the pairing).

These can be your thoughts or reflections on the subject of masking, neurodivergence, and your new understanding of yourself following your diagnosis/self-diagnosis, or a recurring thought from your childhood – anything goes. Positive, negative or neutral – whatever feels true to you at this moment in time is great. These can be a series of single words, paragraphs of texts, poems, quotes, memories, diary entries and so on. Feel free to submit as much or as little text as you wish. Don’t worry about it being perfect, you don’t need to be a writer to share your thoughts and feelings. These words will be then used to create dialogues with the photographs you submit which will then form the collaborative book.

3. Your preference on anonymity.

Let me now whether you’d like to keep your submission anonymous in the future publication, or have your name appear in the acknowledgements (images and words will not be credited or attributed to any one person directly but will form part of a larger collective artwork).

4. Consent on image usage.

By uploading/sending me your own childhood photographs you are givig me consent to use them for the purposes of this project, modifying them (for example, cropping), and sharing them publicly (including but not limited to websites, social media and printed publications).

Please submit your words and photographs following the instructions in this form. All information submitted will be treated with utmost care and will not be shared with anyone outside of the creation of this photography book.

Please note that the form does require for you to be logged into your Google account in order to upload your photographs. If you prefer to submit via email, please send your submission to hello [at] mamzenko.com, stating “Unmasking Submission” in the subject line.