I visited my best friend, Alana, in Reno last week, and I had to do a #BlindLocation while I was there. Alana is a badass. She became paralyzed at the age of 17, which confined her to a wheelchair for the rest of her life, but that hasn't stopped her from competing in 3 sports in the Paralympics (downhill alpine ski racing, sprint kayaking, and wheelchair basketball) and winning several medals- 3 of them GOLD. I feel like I've talked about her on my blog before, so I won't get into a ton of details. Just Google her, and you can see her list of accomplishments. It's ridiculously long.
Her boyfriend, Roy Tuscany, helped us film this shoot, and he is also a badass. He was paralyzed in 2006 from the waist down in a ski accident, But. He. Can. Still. Walk... despite his injury. Super crazy, because he can't feel parts of his legs and feet, but he's able to walk, which is just incredible. Roy is also the CEO & Founder of an amazing organization called The High Fives Foundation, which helps people who have suffered life-altering injuries by providing resources and getting them into sports. SO amazing, and I know several people who work in or with a non-profit, but nothing beats what these guys are doing. #winning
Anyway, I wanted to photograph her for a #BlindLocation for 3 reasons:
1- I was in Reno... Never done a #BlindLocation there.
2- She's beautiful. Just look at her.
3- She's in a wheelchair, and I thought shooting her could be a good way to talk about getting out of your comfort zone as a photographer.
It's not easy to photograph someone who you don't relate to, and I'm not saying Alana isn't relatable (because she's the most down-to-earth human I know). What I'm saying is it's difficult to know what to do and what not to do when taking photos of someone who is different than you.
So, when you watch the video you'll see I take some photos of her in her chair and some of her out of her chair, and of course, I know her well, so I automatically knew this was all ok to do.
But, the first time I took photos of Alana, I had no idea what was ok. So, I just asked her, which I'm sure she appreciated- rather than me acting all weird and not addressing the fact she was in a wheelchair and I had no idea how I was going to take photos of her.
I've been mentoring a young photographer friend of mine for years now, and one of the very first assignments I had her do was to photograph a stranger who didn't look like her. The lesson wasn't about how the photos turned out; it was about the comfort zone and getting out of it. We can't grow if we aren't challenging ourselves as artists. A really great way to do that is by taking photos of people who aren't our friends or family or of someone that isn't a model or has physical limitations.
So, I challenge you guys to give it a try.
Walk up to a stranger, and ask if you can take their photo. Or ask to take a photo of someone you know who intimidates you- maybe someone you look up to or another artist who you admire. If all of your friends are white, go photograph someone who is black or Asian. If you grew up poor, go photograph someone who is rich. If you've only worked with models, challenge yourself by photographing someone who hates being on camera.
These stereotypes and stigmas are all really really easy to break down. We just have to be mindful that they are there and they are real, and then we have to work to understand them. Understanding breeds acceptance. Acceptance breeds comfort. Yes we are all different, but we are mostly alike. That's one of the biggest reasons I love being a photographer.
It is because of photography that I don't really believe in stereotypes anymore. It's because of photography that I have developed a boldness of which I'm really proud.
But enough about me, let's watch Alana's #BlindLocation.
Thanks for watching and reading. #BlindLocation is posted every Friday.
Model: Alana Nichols
Videographer: Roy Tuscany
Video Editing: Alyssa Douglas
Photographer: Sydney Prather