Three years ago Sharon Rosenbloom brought her children to Thomas Balsamo's Barrington photo studio for a portrait. Rosenbloom's son, Joey, is autistic; in order to help Balsamo connect with him, she began explaining some things about autism. That conversation bore fruit last month with the publication of Souls: Beneath and Beyond Autisim, a collection of black-and-white studio portraits of 42 Chicago-area autistic kids by Balsamo, with a narrative "from the collective heart" by Rosen-bloom. Balsamo shot 4,000 images, though just over 100 appear in the book. "I grabbed whatever they would give me," he says. "We've got the whole range of emotion." Rosenbloom says their goal was to "show autism from the inside out," break stereotypes associated with the condition, and use it as a metaphor for the "universal message that from the depths of darkness, often we find the greatest enlightenment." Her text is brief and moving: "The desperate selfishness, the all-consuming and ravenous nature of this beast called autism, can and will bring the strongest to their knees." But in the end, she writes, "nothing of this world compares with the embrace of a person with autism." Thirty portraits from the book are on exhibit at the Barrington Area Arts Council, where a reception with the authors and some of the families portrayed will be held from 7 to 9 on Saturday, February 8. Rosen-bloom will also be at the gallery to discuss the book at 11 AM on Saturday, February 22. The arts council is located at 207 Park in Barrington. The free exhibit continues through February 28 and gallery hours are Tuesday through Friday from 10 to 5, Monday and Saturday by appointment. Call 847-382-5626.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Thomas Balsamo.