Once upon a time in a small Italian village, nothing happened.

It was a morning like any other – yet that was precisely the point of me being there.

The empty streets. The tranquil canals. The first light of day, hitting the village’s colorful houses. There was no need for anything to happen. Being there was enough.

That morning, I took the 4:30 am ferry to Burano, a tiny island tucked away in the Lagoon of Venice, and when I arrived it was still dark.

I set up my camera on a bridge where lovers go during the day, and I stayed in the same spot for three hours, watching the night sky slowly give way to the rising sun.

Mornings like these make my creative heart sing.

As a photographer, my mission is to capture moments of stillness in the rush of life.

As an autistic person, these are also the moments I feel most at ease. It’s when I can take in the world at my own pace, rather than feeling rushed by it.

The two are inextricably linked.

There is a wonderful word for autism in Māori (the language used by the indigenous population of mainland New Zealand) and it’s ‘Takiwātanga’, which translates as “my own time and space”.

That’s exactly what the act of photography – or any other creative pursuit – can help create for an autistic person: a cocoon in time and space where our self-awareness dissolves, and where we can fully immerse ourselves in the present moment without having to worry about what others think of us.

It’s hard to put into words how liberating this feeling can be.

Of course it is a feeling that is not reserved for autistic people; it resembles what renowned Hungarian-American psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi described as ‘flow state’ (his book ‘Flow’ is a must-read).

But for autistic people, the ability to express ourselves in our own time, space and modality is arguably one of the most vital psychological needs.

It relieves us of the tension to conform to external pressures. It allows us to find our own kind of beauty and temporarily transcend our limitations, fostering a sense of self-acceptance that is otherwise so often lacking.

I am typically alone in these moments, as I was that morning standing on a bridge in Burano with my camera, but it’s the full immersion in a creative pursuit that keeps loneliness at bay.

In fact, it is in these moments that I feel most connected to the universe, because there is no ‘me’ or ‘them’. There’s just a profound sense of unity.

I sometimes wish I could carry over that same feeling back into the world when I’m with others. I’m still trying.

Paradoxically, perhaps it’s through creative expression in our own time and space that we can learn to find deeper connection to others.

I like to think that may be true.

And if it isn’t, it still was a beautiful morning in Burano.

Nothing happened – but for a moment, everything felt right.

This photo, “Life in technicolor”, is available for print in a variety of sizes. To receive more stories like this in your mailbox, please subscribe to my newsletter.