Camera Therapy: How Photography Gave Me Hope Again

Camera Therapy: How Photography Gave Me Hope Again

The following is by a dPS reader – Shaun. It started as an email to me from him – however it was so powerful that I convinced him to allow us to publish it as a post. I hope that he might also one day let me convince him to share some of his photos too! Please Share this! – Darren

Shaun’s Story

In June of 2009 I was involved in a serious traffic accident that left me in a coma for several weeks and unable to walk or use my left arm. The list of injuries I have are longer than I can include here and so the last 2 years of my life have largely been spent for me in hospital or rehabilitation centres.

Much of my past life is a distant memory – things I used to take for granted and do without thinking take hours of effort to achieve, friendships have changed as I’ve become reliant upon others to survive and for a long time I lived without much hope. Depression became a state I lived in 24/7.

Camera Therapy

Around 6 months ago, and as part of my rehabilitation, my therapist suggested that I try to introduce something creative into my life. I think he was just trying to get me to think of something outside of my situation. He suggested painting but also mentioned in passing another patient who had taken up photography.

Being a techy guy (in my past life) I liked the idea of getting a camera and after a lot of research purchased a small four thirds format camera (a Panasonic GF1). I wanted a DSLR but due to their size and my limited movement (I do everything with one hand) I went for a lighter and smaller camera.

I also spent a heap of time on your website since buying the camera. I’ve not taken photos before but dPS has taught me a lot!

Over the last 6 months my life has changed a lot. Physically I’m improving a little – although still live life in a wheelchair and am very restricted in my movement – but emotionally I’m a different guy and much of it is a result of photography.

My Photographic Challenges

Pictured: Photographer using the 'Mount Mover'

There are a lot of challenges to take a simple photo for me. For example:

  • Getting to a location to photograph can be tough – I like street photography and landscapes and much of my life is confined to my small apartment or rehab centres.
  • Keeping my camera still – I ended up getting a small Tripod attachment welded by a friend to my wheelchair which has helped me a lot. Now my camera is in front of me any time I’m in my chair. I’ve since found purpose made mounts for wheelchairs and have just ordered one (the Mount Mover) – this will also enable me to consider a DSLR.
  • Just taking a shot – when I’m out with other photographers I notice that they are able to take a lot of shots from different angles and compositions that I’m not able to get.

How Photography Gives Me Hope

However despite the challenges photography has made me feel alive again. It has become a very therapeutic thing.

  • It gives me something to think about that is not related to my pain or injuries.
  • It gives me motivation to get well again.
  • It takes me out of sitting alone in my apartment.
  • It has given me dreams for the future.
  • It has given me a social interaction with other photographers (online and in real life).

My photos are not as technically brilliant as many of your authors – but that’s not what photography is about for me. For me it is a part of getting well and celebrating life, something I never thought I’d do again.

A Tip for Able Bodied Photographers

One ‘tip’ that I’d like to give other photographers is to ‘SLOW DOWN’. One of the bonuses of living my life is that nothing happens fast. As a result I see a lot more than I think many other photographers do. I also am forced to consider every element of my shot – composition, light, settings etc.

I see a lot of photographers racing around to get their shots. Not considering what they’re seeing and just snapping off a heap of shots very quickly and racing on to their next location. I suspect a lot of photographers could learn a great deal by slowing down.

If you have a story (big or small) about how photography has given you hope we’d LOVE to hear it in comments below.

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