Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Kids Who Can

When I got the call from Andrew Stawicki about Kids Who Can last summer, I was both excited and nervous. Thrilled with having been selected to be part of the PhotoSensitive team, but nervous about doing my first photo-journalism job.

My task was to spend two days photographing Easter Seals campers for the PhotoSensitive project Kids Who Can presented by Canon.

Although I had heard about Easter Seals camp as a child, I had never attended myself. My mother always pushed me to go to camp but I was totally against it. I didn’t want to be labelled by disability, or associated with disability. Now however, the more I look at it, the more I realize that there is a story here.

Alexis Gallant after the pool. Photo by Maayan Ziv
I spent most of my time with the younger kids in the Discovery Camp program. My focus was not just to grab images but, having a disability myself, it was important to me to connect with the kids first before photographing them. I didn’t want them to feel self-conscious or that I was an outsider, because I wasn’t one. I would lower the height of my wheelchair (I can do that) so that I could spend every moment with them....at their level, seeing things the way they were. Being able to do that became an advantage in my photography, I never missed a moment....so  I could capture more, and at the kids' perspective.

"Shooting the Shooter" (on the hottest day of the year..oh man I look so sweaty) at Camp Woodeden, ON- James Burns from PhotoSensitive.

I think one reason it was so easy to connect with the kids is because I share so much with them. I know what it is like to be a kid growing up with a disability…but maybe its also because I act like a 7 year old.

Wesley Magee-Saxton, left, and Cameron Purdy, right, two of a group of eight boys that I hung out with the most.
They kept pulling their counselor's finger to see if he would fart.

When I saw how counselors interacted with the kids, I knew this was a special place. I was so impressed with them; each so incredibly dedicated and supportive. It was the first thing that I noticed.

Will. Photo by Maayan Ziv.

Alexis being helped out of her harness after daring the challenge of the camp's giant swing. Photo by Maayan Ziv

When I arrived, one of the counselors gave me a tour around the camp, it was all pretty magnificent, but when I saw the wheelchair accessible high ropes course, I thought, this is insane. This has got to be the best camp ever. That's when it really kicked in.

Photo by Maayan Ziv
Easter Seals camp is such a great place for kids with physical disabilities to learn, grow and be supported in a positive environment. When my two days were over, I didn’t want to leave.

William Antaya, left and Wesley Magee-Saxton Photo by Maayan Ziv


Kids Who Can launches in Toronto from PhotoSensitive.

The official launch of the Kids Who Can project was on March 16th at the Brookfield Place in Toronto. Over the summer of 2011, 25 photographers and videographers were sent to 12 camps across eight provinces. The result is a compelling and thought provoking show that I am so humbled and honored to have been a part of.  Here are some images from the launch.

Photo by Melissa Tait

Photo by Melissa Tait

Photo by Giordano Ciampini

The Honourable David C. Onley, Lieutenant Governor of Ontario. Photo by Giordano Ciampini

Kevin Ogawa, President and CEO of Canon Canada. Photo by Giordano Ciampini

Wes and Will, two of the boys I photographed at Camp Woodeden. Photo by Giordano Ciampini

Sharing my experience shooting. Photo by Giordano Ciampini.

Andrew Stawicki, PhotoSensitive founding photographer, talks about how the project came together so magically. Photo by Giordano Ciampini

Cutting of the ribbon ceremony. From left to right: Ms. Ruth Anne Onley, The Honourable David C. Onley - Lieutenant Governor of Ontario, Andrew Stawicki - Founder of PhotoSensitive, Kevin Ogawa - President and CEO Canon Canada, Brandon McAuley - Easter Seals Ontario Ambassador, myself. Photo by Giordano Ciampini

From left to right, back row: Andrew Stawicki, Cheol Joon Baek, Marni Wolf, Sean F. White, Ms. Ruth Anne Onley, the Lieutenant Governor's Aide de Camp, Kevin Ogawa, Kyle Cunjak, James Burns, Scott Munn. Front row: David Stobbe, The Honourable David C. Onley, Brandon McAuley, myself, Tanya Workman. Photo by Giordano Ciampini

The Honourable David C. Onley, Lieutenant Governor of Ontario and myself. Photo by Giordano Ciampini

Me in front of my work. Photo by my mama, Orli Ziv.

Photo by Ken Faught

Kids Who Can has been a project that has changed my life. I feel so lucky to have contributed to such an important body of work.

Click here to check out more of my work from my time at EasterSeal's Camp Woodeden on my website.

and Click here for all the official images and video of the Kids Who Can project.


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