Have you ever noticed that portrayals of people with disabilities in the media (which are rare to begin with) usually focus on physical discrepancies and differences, rather than highlighting beauty as they do for able bodied models? I have. It bugs me. It’s like able bodied people are retouched to look more perfect and people with disabilities are retouched to look more…disabled.
I’m well aware that there’s no conspiracy to make people with disabilities look pathetic, but the fact that it’s such a common theme says something, doesn’t it?
We live in a visual age, where pictures add value and credit to stories, and they shape our understandings and opinions of people and things we don’t regularly interact with. Most of the time, when I see a published image of a person with a disability, I’m embarrassed. The photos almost always emphasize what the person can’t do, and that overshadows the ability that it has to tell a story of individuality. Instead of empowering the subject and giving him or her the upper hand, it elicits pity and sometimes even morbid curiosity from the viewer.
But I’m not writing to complain; actually, I’d like to ask for your help.
My very talented and beautiful friend, Melanie Riccardi, and I are setting out to tell stories of people who are partnered with service dogs, through portraits and narratives. Our goal is to show your relationship with your dog and how you’re empowered by it. There is absolutely no criteria regarding your disability — visible or invisible, physical or not — and you don’t even have to disclose details if you’d prefer not to.
Your participation will consist of some correspondence with me, likely by email, and a photo session with Melanie and me. Photographs will belong to us, but you’ll receive three digital images to have for your own use, as a thank you from us, and more importantly, you’ll be contributing to an important movement. Our final product is yet to be determined, but will definitely include a series of blog posts, and hopefully a book in the end. The possibilities are endless and exciting!
We’re located in Silicon Valley, California, and need participants within reasonable driving distance, at least for now. If you’re located elsewhere in the country, but are thinking of taking a trip West, we highly recommend San Francisco and Napa Valley, and we also recommend that you let us know so that we can meet up with you and take your picture. :)
If you’re even remotely interested, fill out the form, and I’ll get right back to you. We’ll collaborate on concepts for your shoot — we want to represent you as truly as possible.
We’re excited for this journey, and hope you’ll join us for it!