Meet Theodore Turnquest II (affectionately known as “Theo”) - one of our freelance photographers here at Nassau Cruise Port. As a young adult living with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), Theo’s photography hobby has become a source of great comfort and an outlet to express himself creatively in recent years.
At Nassau Cruise Port, we believe that inclusion is a right and a responsibility. According to a 2021 article published by Forbes, 80% of people with autism globally are unemployed or underemployed. That’s why, in honour of Autism Awareness Month 2023 and this year’s theme “Transforming the narrative: Contributions at home, at work, in the arts and in policymaking,” we spoke to Theo about his interest in photography and life as a young autistic person. Theo’s photos are used on our social media channels, in presentations, and in other promotional materials, helping us to tell the story of Nassau Cruise Port. We truly value his work.
With this interview, we want to encourage other companies to embrace people on the spectrum and to show that when they are supported, and feel secure and loved (just like anyone else), they can lead very successful, happy lives.
According to the most recent data published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) , autism affects 1 in 36 children in the United States. While similar data is currently unavailable in The Bahamas, many Bahamian families like Theo’s have been greatly impacted by the effects that autism can have on family life.
Here’s what Theo had to say:
What piqued your interest in photography?
My interest in photography peaked when I was at Beacon College in Leesburg, Florida. Beacon College is a college for students who have learning disabilities, ADHD, and ASD. I was twenty-one and had started taking photos for sketching assignments in art class during my sophomore year; this is where my interest in photography grew. I began taking photos of the campus during my free time while also learning how to edit them on my phone. I learned how to edit saturation, brightness, hue, and temperature of a photo. During my Junior Year, I learned how to use Photoshop when I was in graphic design class. Photoshop has helped me enormously with not only editing my photos but also saving them online. If it wasn't for my time at Beacon College, I wouldn't have an interest in photography.
What are your favorite subjects to photograph?
Apart from taking pictures of cruise ships for the port, the subjects I love the photograph most as I travel are buildings. I love traveling around the world to take pictures of great buildings inside and out. The architecture of how buildings are designed have always fascinated me. So, I’d say my favorite subject in photography is architecture.
I also love the outdoors where there are more engaging subjects. For example, I want to take some pictures of the beach, but it's not enough to take a picture of the water moving. If there is a ship far away on the water, I can zoom in with my lens and capture it if I want to get a closer look. So, I like to go outside if there is something engaging in the space.
What is one of your biggest accomplishments to date?
I would say taking pictures of the cruise ships last month on the 18th. There I had some good shots of the ships and Maya praised me for it. I also got some good shots of the Scarlet Lady ship.
Who is your biggest inspiration?
The person who inspires me the most is my father Theodore Turnquest I. He has taught me how to be a better person, to be honest with people, including myself. My father is not only my biggest inspiration, but also a good role model as well.
What is your hope for the future of autism awareness in The Bahamas?
I hope that people can know there are schools and colleges for people with learning disabilities. Beacon College is a good example. Not only does Beacon College have good classes and great professors, but they have great resources for people who have ADHD, ASD, and other learning disabilities. My time at Beacon was wonderful due to the staff who were willing to listen to their students and the resources there to steady your path. I hope that autism awareness can show people there are spaces for people who have ASD and that resources are indeed available.
What do you want people who are not on the spectrum to know about what it's like to have autism?
I would say having autism does feel a little different when compared to someone who doesn’t. But I mean that in a good way. Having autism doesn't hold you back from doing the things you like. I was able to graduate from high school and Beacon College while also getting a job in the process. But I wouldn't have done all that if it weren't for my family. My mom recommended I go to Beacon College, and it has worked out great. My Dad was able to give me a job when I was unable to find one in the United States and now, I have two jobs in The Bahamas. So, I want people to know that having autism doesn't hold you back from achieving your dreams. And that's what I hope people can take away from this.
We love the way that Theo focuses on his strengths and not on his challenges. A lesson for us all!
This month, our team will also take part in the REACH Bahamas Fun Run Walk on April 29th in support of Bahamian families with autism. If you would like to learn more or give your support, contact R.E.A.C.H. Bahamas at (242) 328-4123 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo: Autistic freelance photographer Theo Turnquest takes a moment on the other side of the camera while visiting Nassau Cruise Port for his weekly photo shoot. (Photo credit: David Bartlett)