Meet Lisa, our photographer
Until fairly recently, the choice of positive images of disabled people available from mainstream web image libraries was, to say the least, poor. At worst, the images were patronising, tokenistic and insulting. Arguably all this changed in 2018 when Getty Images and the National Disability Leadership Alliance (NDLA), a cross disability coalition of national organisations in the States, worked together to create a huge collection of individualised positive photos: the Disability Collection.
At RiDC we wanted to have positive, everyday web images of real people - members of our consumer panel.
Here, our photographer, Lisa, gives her view from the other side of the lens:
I don't think too much about a shoot beforehand. I plan logistics, yes. But I leave my mind open to the energy and dynamics on the day. That's the magic of photography for me. And photographing for RiDC was no different.
It was only when I arrived that I questioned my own methods of communication. We were photographing Antony and Roxy, who are both deaf, and Michelle and Owais, who are blind. As much as I can, I try to bring myself into the world of the people I'm photographing. I'm always led by their energy. But without the ability to do British Sign Language, I questioned myself: would I still be able to do this?
Verbal language is my learnt method for getting to know someone. It’s how I reassure, give words of affirmation, and manage the photographic space. I rely on words to photograph, don't I?
However, the moment Anthony and his lovely daughter, Chloe walked into the room, I knew I was wrong. We shook hands, looked each other in the eyes and smiled.
And as I said, clearly and honestly, "it's great to meet you", I realised that 90 per cent of our interaction was non-verbal.
I then watched as Antony and Chloe created a beautiful visual display of language. Not only was it no less a form of communication, it emphasised all the wonderful, yet easily forgotten, forms of communication: body language, visual and facial expressions, hand signals, and touch.
From this moment on, the shoot was an absolute joy. Each and every person I photographed for RiDC added something to my life.
I learnt about:
- holidays in Italy and acting careers, wheelchair cycling around Richmond Park from Pete, and skiing for the Paralympics, courtesy of Mike
- how guide dogs struggle to retire and why pedestrian crossings have a little spinning cone underneath the button
- Disney-themed weddings and Tarantino films
- the strength of humour and companionship, the simplicity of touch, and the childlike excitement of someone giving you a bag full of homegrown apples – thank you Bev!
The photography was a sideline to all of the above. But it comes as a result of it. I take my camera out when I feel the time is right, sensing a telling expression or moment; one that can offer a little insight into that person's spirit, character and life.
I feel the RiDC photos have done justice to each of those spirits, characters and lives.
And I really hope you like them as much as I enjoyed taking them.