The truth is, everyone has a story to tell. Think about it. Don’t you have parts of your life that you know are worthwhile to ruminate on, to express, and to share? We aren’t all great with words or have the steady hand to paint or draw, but to be able to express yourself by showing others the world as you see it? That’s pretty powerful stuff right there.
I know I am not alone in having picked up a camera when I was a small child. It was my mother’s camera, large and bulky with a lens that jutted out and could be adjusted by hand. It looked so magical to me, like a professional journalist or a fashion photographer might be able to pick up that same camera and create beautiful art with it. Of course, I was not allowed to use that camera and was instead handed a little brown camera with textured sides and no easy to break lens. I started to take pictures of everything. I still have a little photo album filled with my attempts at making art. I laugh as I look back on those photos now: heads are cut off, there are close ups of hands holding mugs or of my dog’s ear, blurry shots of flowers and toys fill up the rest of the pages.
As I moved into my teen years, the pictures began to be focused on my friends. I documented our ever changing hair and clothes. There are pictures of us at bonfires or the beach, at house parties or just driving around. Growing up before the internet was very involved in our lives, we made our own fun by getting dressed up in handmade costumes and creating our own fashion shoots. We re-created what we saw in magazines and books and practiced getting the light just right. F course, it was also the days before digital cameras, so we never knew what our photographs would look like until days later, when we would go to pick up our developed pictures from the local drug store.
I never quite got the hang of taking truly beautiful or epic photographs—I am not a professional and I would never suggest you ask me to take any photos of your wedding or any other important life event. However, what I do have, thanks to my never ending mission to document my life, is a wonderful collection of photos that remind me of who I was and what was important to me for each part of my life.
While I also love to write and paint, there is something so simple and practical about picking up a camera (or these days, a camera phone!) and taking pictures of what is going on around you. You don’t need to have a steady hand, or even a good eye, to be able to take pictures of what is important to you. You can share what is going on in your daily life and there is nothing wrong with just snapping photos without concern about the technical aspect or the aesthetics. Not taking anything away from those with the skill, photography as a hobby is such an immediate way to communicate with people, especially strangers, who you may want to help understand who you are and what your life is like.
Instagram “selfies” can get a bad rap, but for those of us who have trouble explaining what our lives are really like to outsiders, social media photography can be really helpful for normalizing disabilities by bringing them into the mainstream. It’s an easy way to take control of your own story, to present yourself as you see yourself, not how other people see you.
There are many different ways to adapt a camera to make it work for you and no reason to feel nervous or as though it’s something you would be unable to do. Some are cheap and easy fixes that make using a camera phone easier, like using a pair of headphones and setting it up so that you can snap a picture by simply pressing the volume button or using a selfie stick to take self portraits or to get angles that you might otherwise not be able to get because of limited mobility. Those adaptations are relatively cheap— you can get a selfie stick at the dollar store these days!
If you decide that you want to use a real camera and not just your phone, there are many kinds of adaptations that you can work with that can be attached to digital cameras. There is a Disabled Photographers Society in the UK that has an entire page of their website dedicated to different adaptive equipment that is available to the budding photographer.
If you really want to look at how there are some absolutely amazing photographers with severe physical limitations, make sure to check out this page. Recovering from a spinal cord injury, he talks about his photography, but also his ideas for the future and how adaptive devices can be made better!
We here at Griffin’s Place would love to start going on nature walks as a group, capturing the great outdoors in photos and then sharing those with each other and the community. We’ll be talking about adaptive devices that might work for your particular needs and helping everyone have fun taking photographs. If you think this is something that you might be interested in doing with us, let us know! We’d love to have you join us! Just email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to join us!