In our seventh Spotlight feature, neurodivergent artist Sonia Boué discusses her recent research and publication; Neurophototherapy – Playfully Unmasking with Photography and Collage. The book creates a methodology designed to help people explore their neurodivergent identities.
A note about masking
Masking describes a complex form of social ‘camouflaging’ many NDs instinctively adopt to avoid the harms of stigma, bullying and discrimination. We may not be aware of it before we discover our ND. As a survival mechanism it helps us get through certain situations, but it can be harmful in the long run. This is because masking is exhausting; it is hard to sustain and can cause anxiety
leading to burnout. You can end up feeling like you don’t know who you are.
Neurophototherapy seeks to nurture and empower you to develop a more secure
sense of ND identity through playful unmasking.
Sonia Boué, A brief note about masking, analogue collage, 2023
Neurophototherapy was conceived at home during the first lockdown in 2020, and as I began to share images on Instagram it felt like a ‘coming out’ party. I’d been ‘openly autistic’ since 2016, but I was still masking because I simply didn’t know how to unmask. It turns out there is a world of difference between talking about being ND, and being true to yourself in asserting your everyday needs. As ever, actions speak louder than words. With the pandemic, everything shifted. I turned to self-documentation and Neurophototherapy came into being. Communication began to feel more seamless – things happen when you know who you are!
In 2021, I launched Neurophototherapy, as a solo project. It was funded by Arts Council England (ACE) to develop as a creative tool for neurodivergent women and marginalised genders. I received further ACE funding in 2023, to develop the project with a small focus group of ND participants. This book is a guide to the method and includes insights from the focus group.
Me, still exploring making ND self portraits in 2023
The artist wishes to credit the project focus group members; Lauren B, Lucy Barker, Chloe Lawson,
Naomi Morris, Helen Robson and Sonja Zelić, the writers; Dr. Joanne Limburg and Prof. Nicola Shaughnessy, Artist and Learning and Engagement specialist; Miranda Millward, project partners; Autograph, Crafts Council, NSEAD and Wellcome Collection and funders Arts Council England.
Text and images courtesy of the artist.
For more information about Sonia’s work, visit her website here.