A few weeks ago, while scouting for some exercise locations, I received a phone call from the Saskatchewan chapter of the Canadian Paraplegic Association asking me if I would be interested in being the recipient of their annual merit award for significant contributions to the CPA and the disabled community. I was a bit overwhelmed but, after a brief hesitation, I said, "yes!"
After understanding what was just said to me I asked why I was selected. I was told that it was because of my work on Challenging Reality and because of the special Help-Portrait event at the CPA office we organized at the end of November, 2013. That answer made sense to me but sparked dozens of thoughts and multiple additional questions I decided to keep to myself at the time.
I'm well aware of my ever-fickle fear of success. It is the unknown. What might it do to change a person? How might it affect expectations of me to continue to contribute, grow and improve in what I do? Might the attention be more than I want, especially considering how much of a introverted person I am?
The more I thought about it the more I realized that, regardless of the times when I like it or dislike it, the attention would be necessary if I hoped to make something of my efforts. What good are efforts and quality bodies of work if they do not reach the appropriate people to be enjoyed by the viewers, of any help to those they are intended to help, or to maintain the momentum to continue on with new material which completes the cycle and makes the work self-sustaining?
Even before I began writing my words of appreciation, to be spoken when I received the award, I knew that I could not fail to mention everyone involved. I did not put on the CPA Help-Portrait event independently. It was a great combined effort of many willing hands that made it possible for us to serve as many people as we did that day. To create portraits of that many people independently would have taken me numerous sessions and weeks of processing the resulting photos. All that we did in one day was thanks to the team effort. I made certain to mention this in my acceptance remarks. And, I'm saying it now. Thank you, Help-Portrait Saskatoon team! Your work, experience, equipment and time are appreciated and essential to successful events.
If I had to guess I would say that my dear wife, Angie, has assisted me in some way with two thirds of my Challenging Reality photos. It may be helping me to stylize something, carry something to where I can more easily make a photo of it or extensively helping me to set up and take down, whatever the subject might be. Many of those photos I could make independently given adequate time. Some of those would not be possible without her help. I needed to acknowledge that as well as express my appreciation for the numerous times she has been my model and test subject. I was also pleased to acknowledge the contributions of my friends. Paul has been the largest contributor in helping me to name it, being my model for multiple photos, providing fair feedback which includes critique when needed, and suggestions for material. Heather has given me feedback and ideas and I have multiple ideas from Delynne. All of those are on my list of subjects to shoot and as time permits they will be photographed and archived.
The brief description of Challenging Reality, and the work it consists of, was also included in the annual report that is distributed to every member of the CPA. That coverage will help to sustain the project with new contributions, new readers and new ideas for subject material. However, that was not the only publication I saw my face in yesterday.
After discussing my work with my contacts at the Shriners Hospital for Children in Chicago they had me write an article for them to be in their newsletter. It was difficult to reduce what I wanted to say down to three paragraphs because whose story can be summed up that briefly? However, I felt like their revisions to squeeze it into the allotted space was beautifully worded and I am very appreciative of the coverage and the support from them. I do not know how many hundreds of thousands of people receive their newsletter but I have noticed a significant increase of traffic on Challenging Reality. I don't deny the pressure I feel to make certain my posts are both well photographed and as well written as ever. Again, what good is that work without people to benefit from it? Perhaps the pressure is most added because my face is now visible and I am by far most accustomed to being the one making the photos, not being in them.
One final thought. In anticipation of having my photo made, of me receiving the merit award, for the CPA publications I found myself planning some polite and helpful tips for the person to make our photo. You see, I've been receiving their publications for 16 years now and the vast majority involve photos of people in wheelchairs made by someone at a full standing height. That is, looking down on the people in the wheelchairs. I know that they do not mean any harm by this but I also know that their mandate includes equality. A good starting point is by giving viewers of their photos and equal eye level to the camera. Likely it would be subconscious but by removing that angle of view of looking down on someone you are removing the viewer's tendency to feel above the photo of who they are looking at. My suggestions were welcomed and I hope that the photo I see in the next publication will be improved from some I have seen in the past. Now, if we could just get people to turn off that on camera flash…