Monday, July 19, 2010

Trails and Trials of a Wheelchair Photographer

Of all the terrains I have been on this one looks fairly simple. I rarely challenge my scooter's mobility when I am on a solo shoot. I am comfortable with pavement and shallow gravel and trails through low cut grass. I did recently get into a situation that was a steep incline and of all of my concerns I never thought that a stall on a steep hill would happen. Especially with well charged batteries. That is exactly what happened. I almost topped a  steep incline, not much higher than the one pictured here and right before reaching the top my scooter stalled and stopped.

Having a fear of heights I was determined not to look back the very long slowly rising incline. I pulled my key out and pushed it back in to try to restart it but nothing. The circuit had been thrown and the button I needed to reset it was out of reach from my position. This is typically when anger and fear ultimately kick in. I got my cellphone and called my husband. While I was waiting I cursed under my breath. I not only cursed my scooter but the manufacturers of scooters as well and recalled all the arguments that I have had with the healthcare system that having a physical challenge does not mean that life and adventure has to stop. If engineers who design these mobility scooters would consult the physically challenged to arrange little safety buttons where they can be reached from a sitting position, my life that day and the days ahead would be much easier.

Logically I knew I was safe, the anti lock breaking system would ensure that the scooter wouldn't roll backwards and even if it did there was a long steady stretch that would give me plenty of time to stop. I was in a straight position so as long as I didn't twist around too much it wasn't going to tip over, it was just the idea of having my back to a hill.

When my husband got there he released the break and turned me around and I coasted down the hill. At which point we removed my battery, hit the reset button and restarted the scooter, I by that time had a smile back on my face.

In a world of flourishing technology you would think that options for people with a few physical challenges would have better tools to utilize (within affordable reach) but my husband would tell you that I would just push my limitations more and find new ways to get myself in trouble. =  )

Monday, July 12, 2010

Independence Day Parade 2010

In my Sophomore year of college I went through a very metamorphic and painful change. It was my year of enlightenment, the year I realized that the more I learned the more I knew very little about this world, the universe and how things work. I went head to head with an English professor whose heart and soul was into that years presidential election. That year I stood on everything that I was taught to believe and voted for a President that if I had known what it meant, the things that would transpire after and the regret I would feel afterward I would have never voted that way.

It is very difficult to give up what you know sometimes when you have held on to it for so long, even for the truth. However, there comes a time when you have to ask yourself do you really want your fundamental beliefs centered around something you know is a lie?

In this picture are some kids riding on a float in the 4th of July parade. Independence Day! The day that marks freedom and liberty. The kids are all holding signs that represent what freedom in America means to them. I was able to catch a single moment and while I am certain that it was not the intent of the children, I was left with an image that struck a chord deep in my heart.

The girls holding the signs that read Betsy Ross and Sarah Palin are both looking away from the very sad looking kid holding the Martin Luther King sign. I am sure that he was wishing to be somewhere else but the symbolism of the moment reminded me made me think of the division that this country is moving toward. Maybe it is only because that, thanks to that English professor, I am more aware of that growing line. Or maybe that division has become more visible with the election of our first black president and it is rippling through other minority groups. Fundamentalists desperately trying to hold on to the way things were and reaching back in history to grab onto something thats gone, blow the dust off of it and repackage it to work for today.

I know that is a lot to get from one photograph, and perhaps I am reaching a bit. But the 4th of July and it's reminder of freedom, liberty and everyones right to the pursuit of happiness left its impression on me that day, and for my little part of what I can offer America in the way that I vote will never again be left to blind confidence but will be researched and challenges and thought out. 

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

A Wheelchair View: Life Beyond Death

A Wheelchair View: Life Beyond Death

Life Beyond Death

One of my favorite things as a kid was to get on my bike (I had a big three wheeler) and ride with my younger brother down the long driveway of our farm in a little town called Miltonville, and go to the Miltonville Cemetery across the street.

We enjoyed reading all the stones as if they were part of a giant history book and made it a point to stop by the old well that rested in the center of the place. Despite knowing where we were, we grew up believing that there was something that came after death. We were fascinated with the thoughts of ghosts like most children are, but our faith was in an afterlife and for me I enjoyed going because of the spirits that still lingered like the birds, squirrels, rabbits, the trees and the wind. Even the statues and the stonework seem to have spirits of their own.

The photo of the "Twisted Tree," was taken at Greenwood Cemetery in Hamilton, Ohio and serves as an example of some of the wondrous things you can find within the gates. I find myself still carrying those feelings I had as a kid. Losing loved ones is never easy and cemeteries are often viewed as places of sorrow but even though I have grieved over loss, I still feel a great deal of peace as I look at the history captured with each stone, each flower and each tree.

I am planning to go back and visit Miltonville Cemetery soon, I am almost afraid of what I will find there because it was so old but we will see. I have decided to make a tour of it, visiting different cemeteries. Soon I will put up my series on cemeteries on my website so be looking for that.

Do you know of some places I should visit?
Publish Post

Sunday, April 18, 2010

A Wheelchair View - Changes

Pointing out the Way I have been neglecting this blog a lot lately and to my readers, I am very sorry. My mind and my life has shifted into career mode concentrating on my photography.

Photography is a risky field to get into, even more so for a physically challenged woman in a wheelchair. I am not saying that to lead into any sort of pity trip, that's not my style. I am however, pointing out some pretty obvious challenges that there are to being a photographer in a wheelchair. For example, high and low shots have to be approached somewhat more creatively than someone who can climb a latter, or lay down on the floor. It doesn't mean that I can't get the shots that I want, it just requires a bit more of a journey to get there.

I have grown to look at challenges as adventures, sometimes things work out as planned, sometimes they are a bloody nightmare. Sometimes I get the shot that I am working for and sometimes, more often than not, it comes out better. The point is even when I fail I wheel away from the experience with something positive... always!

But photography isn't something I could do if I didn't love it. Regardless of your physical capabilities photography is a career that takes resilience and determination. It takes business knowledge as well as knowing your camera and making an image work. Photography has taught me not only to see the world as it is, but also to see it as it could be. I can't imagine doing anything else.

One of the other biggest challenges I have faced is getting people to take me seriously. It is an age old stereo type that is still alive and well and just part of life as a challenged person. I don't worry about it too much because I know eventually my work will speak for itself. Also, I have also come to know that everyone of us have stereotypes to overcome whether their black, white, old, young, Christian, Pagan, or Democrat or Republican; at the end of the day they don't amount to a hill of beans if you don't let it.

So now that my career is in focus and I am shifting the dynamics of this blog to my experience looking through a lens and how the world reacts and life with challenges in general, I am hoping that those of you who are reading stick around and even more so, find something here worthwhile to stick around for.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Taking the Physical Challenge

Over Christmas the disabled community lost two of it's members by the taking of their own lives. One had been suffering greatly with AIDS and the other was crushed by chronic pain and financial pressures. When I learned of this my blood ran cold and the horrific idea that more was to come during this economic crisis flooded my thoughts.

My own experience is not exempt from the hardships that these men face. There are many things that I need that I don't have the resources or the money for. I am still amazed at how many people assume that a disability paves the way to an easy life, that the government takes care of the bills and medical needs. While there is awesome help there are also many strings and many road blocks that a disabled person has to overcome to gain financial Independence and stability. When it is gained it is very fragile, it only takes one bout of sickness, an injury or mechanical failure to rip it away.

I didn't bring you to this dark place to talk about the doom and gloom of giving up. I brought you here because the suicide of these two men set off alarms that health care reform is important to all of us but even more importantly than that we are in need of inspiration to keep up the fight and to allow our resilience to strengthen.

I have been disabled since I was 10 months old and I don't know what it is like to be any other way. So when someone who was once abled-bodied becomes paralyzed and confined to a wheelchair, grabs his new disability by the horns and takes the physical challenge I am impressed. Below is a video of this gorgeous man and he is only one of many who can accomplish great things if given the right tools. The resources to gain these tools are so vital.