Falling Leaf

 

 

 

 

I am an artist who practices photography. I am also blind and deaf. To some people that may sound like trying to explain the unexplainable.

So let me tell you my story

This project Falling Leaf began in February 2014.  I had never used a camera before.  But that didn’t stop me from picking one up. The people at Crossroad Arts are always encouraging us to experiment with new things.

 

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In the first few days I made myself familiar with basic operations of the camera by feeling the controls: the on and off button , the shutter button and the automatic focus.

I found it easier to control the camera by placing it on my forehead to point and shoot.   The next part was a little more difficult.  I needed a subject to photograph. And I needed to place that subject in the frame of the camera.

Luckily I had a good support team who helped guide me. Kyla and Steve met with me every week and guided me through this next stage. We were also joined by a Japanese student teacher called Yumma Kawai.  While they taught me the art of photography, I taught them the art of sign language. It was a good collaboration.

 

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I started inside the studio taking portrait photographs of each of them.   They would then communicate back to me through my braille note or through finger spelling, what was in the photograph.  In the early days I was a bit shaky. The subject was often not in the photo or was only half in shot.  I learnt to take lots of photos of one subject, which increased the odds of one turning out OK.

 

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As my confidence grew we moved from the studio to the outside.   That’s when I became interested in taking photographs of trees. They are so diverse in their shape and texture. The trees in my world have faced huge cycles of change. They have been affected by droughts. Many lost their branches or were uprooted when cyclones hit our coast. But they still remain. A tree made me think about my own journey in life.  There are a lot of trees in the Mackay region. Very soon I found myself travelling around to different locations: beaches, dams and the bush. Eventually this journey would take me to Japan and my first international exhibition in Nara and Nagakuti. By the time we had reached the northern city of Sendai I had enough confidence to facilitate workshops with blind participants who had lost their homes after the 2011 Tsunami.

 

There was still one thing missing. I was constantly relying on Steve and Kyla to describe my photo to me.  All of that changed the day we brought the Pict Tactile Enhancer into the studio and my 2 dimensional photos were converted into 3D reliefs. I could finally feel the lines and textures of these trees.  It filled me with so much joy.

To be blind and deaf can sometimes make you feel isolated from the world.

Many of the trees I photographed stood alone. Many looked barren and lifeless. And yet I felt there was a certain inner strength and majesty about them. I too had become stronger . I now began to write poetry to express my inner feelings.

Mango tree alone

golden mangos hang down like rain

roots stretches out like legs

 I am that mango tree. My name is Mangolin. Once I stood alone through droughts and high winds. The other trees did not understand me and I became more alone, frightened and miserable. But over time I have learnt to communicate with the other trees and to teach them how to understand me. Now I am nourished by the water I store in my roots.

 

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