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Human nature at it’s best

Every human being has problems or struggles that they need to face each day, some of those problems might be bigger than others but no matter how big, they are there. We tend to focus all our attention on one problem and make it out to seem bigger than it is when we should rather take the time to think about the fact that it could be a lot worse. The two men that I photographed deal with disabilities that have changed their lives but their attitude towards these problems is what makes them so inspiring. Their stories are breath taking and they help you appreciate life. Even though I know that their stories are not all smiles, my main goal was still to capture their positivity in life. By nature the public is attracted to sad and overwhelming photographs but my aim was not to please the public, it was to show how these two amazing people have mastered life marvelously.


Greg, 1961

Greg Miek was born on the 24th of July 1961 in South Africa. He came to Namibia and started working first as a draughtsman and later on a fishing vessel. On the 5th January 1991 he was in a life-changing car accident, which took place in Namibia. He had to make a split second decision during the accident - to either save his own life or save the life of young Patrick. He chose to save Patrick, holding him in his seat with such force that he broke the femur. Greg, 53, has been paralyzed for 22 years! He lived in Cheshire Home and moved to Stompneus Bay in 1995, here he now lives alone. An aide helps him get up in the morning and comes back at night to put him to bed again. I only had the privilege of getting to know Greg after he was paralyzed but the fact that he is in a wheelchair has never made me look at him differently. Greg is more of a man than most men I know. In my view Greg has always put other peoples need’s and feelings before his own. He has gone through so much in his life and yet he is the least selfish person I know. I portrayed Greg as a “normal� person in the beginning of my series living his life in a positive manner. I captured him interacting with people and if you look closely you can see that he makes the people around him happy, in easy or difficult situations. He is funny, clever and the most kind-hearted man I have ever known. His friends call him the wheelchair-driven encyclopedia.


In the first four photographs my aim was to show Greg as a normal person, doing everyday things and only hinting at his disability. The fifth photograph is a harsh reality of the life of a quadriplegic. The next photograph shows no impediment in his freedom and his friends will travel long distances to spend time with him. Greg has adapted his life style to his disability; he can only eat his food out of the microwave when his helpers are not around. Every second day, Greg has his “shit, shower and shave” day (Greg’s words). Greg has a tendency to make uncomfortable situations humorous and acceptable by cracking a joke or making a silly comment. He goes up the mountain and enjoys a beer or two, while enjoying the stunning view and looking for wildlife. He finds pleasure in the small things in life. He also loves going to the harbor to watch the snoek/fishing boats coming in to land their catch. But ultimately he lives a lonely life, which he masters admirably. His life revolves around his wheelchair but he has accepted it and made the most of what life has to offer. Most people would live in the past but Greg has made his peace with it; he is living in the now and making every second count. He has his ups and downs but his positive attitude gets him through the tough days. He has always and will always be my role model.


Don Wessels The prospect of reversing blindness has made a significant leap, according to scientists in the UK. An animal study in the journal Nature Biotechnology showed the part of the eye, which actually detects light, can be repaired using stem cells. Photoreceptors are the cells in the retina, which react to light and convert it into an electrical signal, which can be sent to the brain. Five years of research is a realistic aim for starting a clinical trial. Close your eyes, keep them closed and just image that that was all you have ever been able to see or that that moment was the last time you would ever see again. If you lose your sight, you lose a part of your life. After a while you won’t remember what your family and friends look like anymore, if you were so lucky to know what they looked like. All the day-to-day things you did like walking or cooking will have to be retaught to you step by step. Don Wessels, age 53 has been disabled and blind for 27 years. He is married, with three children (all boys). He has fished in places as far a field as Henties Bay Namibia, Kariba Zimbabwe, Zanzibar Tanzania, Basarutu Mozambique, Kwa-Zulu Natal South Africa, and of course all over the Cape. Don and his wife climbed the highest mountain in Africa, Mount Kilimanjaro, the year after their wedding. Don has achieved a lot of amazing things after his accident and he is still living life to the fullest. Don Wessels should be an inspiration for the world, his courage and strength physically and emotionally to become the man he is must have been a long journey. Don did not have the chance to look into his wife’s eyes before he married her or see their baby boys for the first time. If the human trials go as planned then Don might finally have the chance to see his family for the first time, to see what fish he caught and simply enjoy life again with his eyes.


My final image talks about Don living in two worlds, his own world and his families. Don spends each day with his two year old son whom he is holding, he keeps him occupied through out the day because he is too young to go to kindergarten. Don lives in a world were his senses are the most important factor of his life, for him to be able to get around and at the sometime he needs to be a Dad and a Husband. His reality is different from anyone around him and he has mastered that reality as best as he can. With a lot of hard work and the technology of today a miracle can be created, a new life can be formed.


Its not about what you have in life, it’s about what you make of it!!


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