Helping power of a photo

“I was always interested in photography,” Rodney Hoare says, adjusting his glasses and tapping away on his keyboard.

“Basically, when I got crook, I found it was hard to get into certain spots and figured other photographers out there had the same difficulty.”

Diagnosed with primary progressive MS in 2007, the largely house-bound former industrial spare-parts salesman has found a new lease on life, founding the Australian Disabled Photographers Association with wife Sharon from a home studio in Condor.

“We’re trying to get more disabled people involved in photography, because it is very therapeutic,” Rodney says.

“Once you take the pictures you can sit at the computer and you don’t have to go out to take photos. You don’t have to be taking portraits, or landscapes, or standard photos. You can be sitting there taking photos of fruit, spiders, anything in your house. It’s amazing what you can do that’s different.”

Aiming to gather disabled members from within the Canberra community to meet, discuss, learn about and exhibit photography, Rodney and Sharon hope to furnish more than just a society of amateurs.

“The whole thing is to get people’s minds off their illness and on to something that’s more positive,” Sharon says.

“Giving them some sort of an outlet that they feel is constructive and have other people feel that it’s constructive and have other people compliment them on their work. And for their carers as well, to give them an out.”

Based on a UK model, Rodney and Sharon aim to provide classes, advice, exhibition space, an online gallery/shop and camera modifications.

“We’re taking it a bit further than to try and get information out to people,” Rodney says, explaining that with a little bit of ingenuity and some spare cash, a camera can be modified with brackets to stop shaking and with buttons for tongues and zooms for teeth.

Starting with a website and a grant from MS Australia, the Hoares are struggling to get through the red tape and promotional processes involved in establishing a charitable organisation.

They need cameras, legal advice and assistance from photographers, photography teachers and disability support services.

“We’re winging it,” Rodney laughs.

“I’d like to get people on board who do teach, get studio help where we can take groups to studio and they teach about lighting aspects and things like that. Even get people on board who teach Photoshop.

“We’re sending a letter out to Australian landscape photographer Ken Duncan, we’re trying to get him as a patron and maybe to approach camera suppliers to get sponsorship through them so that we can do exhibitions and competitions, things like that.

“I think we’re doing alright. It is a very steep learning curve, but I’ve run businesses and this keeps my brain active.”

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