Introducing a disabled friend to photography
I was visiting a friend the other night, many drinks were had and I was talking about my photography. I asked him if he'd be interested in giving it a try and he said he would be. The thing is that he's disabled. He's in a wheelchair, and doesn't have enough strength in his arms to hold a viewfinder to his eyes or hold a compact in front of him and see the screen. I of course said this wasn't a problem and today I went off and bought a Holga with a waist level finder (thing to note, watch out for their deals, I got this at almost half the listed price.) Now, I don't know if this will have a tripod mount on it, and if it does all the better because he said he'd be able to move and shove the tripod about.
So I'm trying to to figure out what kind of advice I can give him to help him get the most out of his first few rolls of film. If this was any of my other friends (and I plan to give them loans of cameras to get them going) I'd be telling them that the first thing about photography is movement. Moving about with your viewfinder and seeing what looks different or interesting, e.g. standing on things, or getting down low, interesting looks with converging lines in buildings, moving up close to throw out perspective, etc. This friend can't do much of that. He's pretty much stuck to seeing things at waist level of a wheelchair. He'll be limited by mounts to foothpaths and roads and won't be able to manipulate the camera into the "correct" space. Of course I'm very interested in what he comes up with (much like where I read about a photography teacher giving his camera to his small child and seeing what perspective he saw things from.) I'd still like to be able to give him advice about getting the right picture. I'll have thrown most of this to chance with something like a Holga, limited settings, 400asa film (although I'm hoping the MF will allow for more lattitude.)
If you had words of advice for someone taking their first pictures in this situation, what would it be? Beyond the fact that he's in an interesting position from his disability anyway, which is certainly a silver line to storm clouds kind of situation.
In the UK the Disabled Photographer's Society is a charity that helps disabled photographers. You don't state where you are if in the UK contact them, or see if there's a similar association near you. You may get some ideas from their website as well.
People donate cameras and equipment to the UK society and they can help or advise with adaptations to help wheelchair users etc.
I wouldn't worry bout getting into"correct" photography.
Simply let your friend do what he or she is able and be encouraging.You will be spending prime time together and offering new horizons to your friend.
Don't forget darkroom work. as his/her assistant you will be learning many new things for yourself
I wouldn't be too concerned with details, just show him how to load and unload it, the shutter button, and how to look through the finder with his minds eye. Let him push the button, and YOU do the rest after that. Maybe try to find a way to clamp it to the chair so he doesn't have much physical work, I'm sure Holgas have a tripod mount.
“What is a master but a master student? And if that's true, then there's a responsibility on you to keep getting better and to explore avenues of your profession.”ť
I was thinking that he could have some sort of tripod mounted to the wheelchair, and the waistlevel-equipped camera, with a cable release. If he has the strength/dexterity to wind on film manually, this might work fine.
“Do your work, then step back. The only path to serenity.” - Lao Tzu
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Yeah, he's fine with fine motor control. It's just strength that's the problem. So he could hold things in his lap and move it to the rests on his chair. I'll bring along my tripod as well and see if he can use that. And I might pick up something like a cheap Gorilla Pod.
Originally Posted by Jerevan
Thanks for that. I'll check it out. Looks like a good group.
Originally Posted by Ian Grant
You could easy make a mount for the chair. Even one if these http://joby.com/gorillapod. You could get the focus one and make a longer handle for it that also reaches down, again so he does not have to lift his arms. Just mount it to the armrest and use it that way. Also you could get (if they have it) a shutter release for the camera. So he could release it while his hands are in his lap. This is close to my heart as I also have a friend that is handicapped. I am one of his (caregivers) We are constantly trying to find stuff like this. He just lacks the fine motor skill for this application.
I did not notice you already has the idea of the gorillapod but still i hope i helped.
You might want to have a look at this film, Shooting Beauty for ideas; http://www.everyonedeservesashot.com/
It's about a fashon photographer, Courtney Bent, who worked with a group of Cerebral Palsy patients in Boston to teach them to work with cameras and make photographs. She has since spent time working with brain injury patients at a specialty center here in New Hampshire.
The photographer who made the film is very approachable, and would probably respond to emailed questions for ideas and suggestions, as well.
Used a Manfrotto MagicArm and SuperClamp on a friend's chair.
A slightly different application shown here but roughly similar for a camera: