This is the second piece that I contributed to the APS Focus page in Australian Photography magazine, It was published in the March 2017 issue under the title “Against the Odds”.
It’s frustrating following major surgery. I’m dictating this into my tablet rather than typing it because the surgery was on one of my hands, and the other hand that needs the same surgery is now much overused and painful. I’ll be out of action with my hands for some considerable time – the surgeon predicts four months to full rehabilitation. It’s not only my ability to type that’s affected, I can’t use my heavy camera either. So, I’ve been making quite a lot of use of my smartphone camera, albeit held carefully with one hand and gently firing the shutter with the thumb of the same hand.
One other thing I can do, on good days when my hands are reasonably OK, is use various apps that allow me to post process and manipulate images taken on my smartphone camera. The phone is linked to my tablet so images are available on it as well. I can do most of the processing simply by sliding my finger on the surface of the tablet screen. Once I’m happy with the result I can save the processed image and I can upload it to various websites, including the ubiquitous Instagram and my personal Flickr site. So, I’m still able to easily share images and receive comments, and sometimes praise, about them.
It’s a salutary lesson having to learn about the things you cannot do when access to things you regularly use is taken away from you. It has reminded me about several people with various disabilities whom I have met over the years and who have been excellent photographers. One of them was in a wheelchair and one of the great joys for me of looking at his images was that they were all shot from a different view point to that which able-bodied adults use for most of their images. His images were a reminder of the importance of seeking different viewpoints.
Another photographer that I’ve known who has a disability was actually legally blind. The first time I saw him in a photography shop collecting processed slides I was astounded. Inquiring, I learned that he could at least discern general shapes and so, if he was pointed towards the scenery, he could hold his camera to his eye and memorise what he was photographing so that, later, when projecting his slides after a while he could make out the same shapes and then recall the original scene. When I arranged for him to screen his holiday slides at my local photographic Society, we were all most impressed by the composition of these images and the fact that they were generally all in excellent focus. He knew how to use his camera. We should all know how to use our cameras so that we can compose and focus!
I’ve also met, and seen an exhibition by, a photographer who is deaf. You might say that’s a disability which does not affect our photography skills. And that may be right. The interesting thing was how this photographer used her photography to tell a wonderful story about deafness. Over a period of a year she met with a diverse group of people who have experienced different types of hearing loss and deafness. Some have dealt with their disability by getting Cochlear implants, others use hearing aids or sign language, and yet others simply live with their deafness. The photographer used still images, multimedia vibratory works, video and text pieces in a multidisciplinary exhibition about the complexity of deafness. The exhibition was opened by another Deaf person who is a sign language user and the opening was simultaneously live-captioned (via telephone link to an interstate captionist) to a large monitor and also interpreted into spoken English by an on-the-spot sign language interpreter. It was the reluctance of many people to confront and discuss issues relating to deafness and hearing loss that was the impetus for the project and the exhibition. The one in six Australians who have a hearing loss need themselves and everyone else to address the issues. Here was the photographer making that possible at least amongst her audience. What an inspiring use of photography!
Perhaps you also know some good photographers with other disabilities. If you do, I would encourage you to learn from how they overcome their disability to create good images. You may even be a photographer with a disability yourself. If so, as someone with a temporary disability learning to create images despite that, I admire you even more now.
We should all seek out opportunities to create photographs that are inspiring.