For 20-year-old Austin Saget, photography has become a close friend and given him an outlet for entertainment that his autism has denied him so far in his life.
A collection of his photographs will be on exhibit at the You & I Gallery during tonight's ArtWalk from 6 to 9 p.m. in downtown Kennewick.
"I have a natural discomfort around people because of my autism," Saget said. "But with my camera I can go take photographs by myself. I sort of just taught myself by trial and error at first but then I found a mentor."
That mentor was the late Ian McAdie, who died last November. McAdie, along with his wife Maris, owned and operated Sunland Camera in Richland.
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"I was about 17 when I came under Ian's tutelage," Saget said. "It was from his guidance and instruction that I learned discipline in composition, lighting, attention to detail, exposure, film and post-production. I attribute my greatest growth as a photographer to his being my mentor."
Saget, the son of Sean and Lisa Saget of Kennewick, is finishing up high school this year through a home schooling program through Kamiakin High. Today's exhibition is part of his culminating senior project.
Carrie Julian, his Kennewick School District case manager, said Saget had an instant love of photography starting at age 15, which is when his neighbors gave him a Ricoh KR 30 SP film camera for Christmas.
"It was very apparent from the time Austin took up a camera that he had an incredible eye for composition and attention for detail," Julian said. "It seemed a logical step for him to work with You & I Gallery for this project."
Brooke Yount, co-owner of You & I Framing & Gallery with her husband Mike, was more than happy to feature Saget's photography in her gallery.
"I am truly blown away at his natural talent behind the camera," Yount said. "I have worked with a boatload of photographers over the years, along with photography students from high schools and colleges, and this kid has natural talent oozing from his work."
Saget says he looks at his photography as a hobby right now, but would like to see it become a profession.
"I originally wanted to become a mathematician, but photography is not a typical 9-to-5 job and I'm admittedly not a morning person," he said. "I would like to make photography a career of self-expression, but I'm at a crossroads at the moment, as I'm on the cusp of graduating from high school."
Autism is a challenging nemesis every day, he said, but his devotion to photography gives him hope for the future. He's also a little nervous about being around so many people at the ArtWalk -- but he plans to tackle that challenge as best he can.
"My new teacher, Rich Breshears, is helping me prepare for my gallery showing," Saget said. "He is very positive and a lot of fun to work with. He's taught me a lot already and now I'm excited to see where things go."