Paola Schillaci

Paola Schillaci

A day with Noah

by Paola Schillaci (Italy)

Paola Schillaci, young documentary photographer, 31 years old based in Sicily. I am interested in social documentaries, photojournalism and culture. My interest in autism started arising when I found out that autistic subjects think trough images instead of words, which made me immidiatelly found the link with Photography.

”A day with Noah” is part of a long term project I started working on from April 2013. Noah is a 13 years old child. Thanks to his mother’s attention and the right therapies, today an almost normail life is possible for him.

Portfolio from the Documentary workshop with Patrick Zachmann, October 2013.

Written review by GAIA TRIPOLI,
Photoeditor New York Times International, France

Overall I think Paola has done a very good job with her subject:  the story is well structured and well shot, I enjoy the verité reportage quality of it , her color palette, and her composition. As a viewer you can feel the connection and empathy in between Paola and her subject, and the time spend by her in creating an intimacy with the Noah and his mom, that allows her to photograph their daily life becoming invisible to their eyes.

I really appreciate the fact that there is not one picture where you feel the presence of the photographer or that the subjects are behaving in a certain way because they are aware there is a camera around them.

I really like image 11, it is well shot, straight forward, a kid with his mickey mouse t-shirt, hiding his face behind a balloon, I find it sort of poetic, and it does make me think of a child in his own universe. This image is a sort of universal representation of childhood for me, as an introduction to the story it tells the reader that it is a story about a kid, without revealing right away or obviously that the Noah is autistic. It intrigues me and keeps me interested in seeing more.

Picture 8 is a successful photo for me, I like the light on the bed sheets and the color contrast with the pillow and the presence of the toys scattered around. Again I think it tells a lot about a child room and his world.

The photographs of the boy with his mom are good: they show affection and the strong bond they have (image 2 is very tender and touching) and at the same time they focus on the challenges that the mother faces everyday trying to teach her son some daily life activities like brushing his teeth or washing his body. The photographs that I feel are not successful and a bit distracting for the story are picture 7 and picture 5. picture 7 is not well shot: the focus on the kid's hands doe not really work for me, you can't really see what he is doing: I would rather see a detail of his hands with the flour and the toys,  without having to she me his face and body.

Picture 5 does not have enough information for me, it is a bit blurry (only one in the take), and you already have the other picture in the pool which works beautifully, so I do not see the need of adding a second one.

The sequencing could use some improvement: I like the idea of starting with a photo that is not too obvious, but I don't think the bed is the right image to start with, it is a picture that does not let you go forward visually, it would instead make a great ending picture. I would suggest the balloon as an opener, it's intriguing for the viewer and pull him into the story. Also in terms of sequence I would suggest that you do not put together all the photos that are similar in terms of scale: I would separate image 2 and 3, same thing for image 6 and 8.  This helps you creating a better flow and a stronger rythm in your story and avoid the viewer to have the impression of looking at repeating images.

Paola has managed to approach a non easy subject with great sensitivity, she has entered a very private world, the one of Noah and his mother, without being an intruder, but also without being too obviously there, which is a very good achievement, and beyond this she has been able to document this world, avoiding stereotypes typical of the representation of autistic syndrome.

Her photo essay really succeeds in representing the intimacy of Noah's world: what she could focus on now, is his life in the outside world, his challenges, his interactions with other people, his difficulties and his moments of joy, I think that would add a good other layer of content to her work.

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