Saturday February 7, 2009
Lensman on a crusade for the disabled
By TAN KARR WEI
MOST people would rummage through their purses and wallets for some spare change or RM1 bills when they see a blind man singing in a public place.
“Not many people would take the time to listen and watch their facial expressions as they sing,” said photographer Victor Chin, 60.
These expressions of blind singer Yaakob Saad, who sings at the Section 14 market in Petaling Jaya, were the essence of what Chin attempted to capture in his photographs.
“He sings the words of the songs with great meaning. Even though he is blind, you can tell by the way he raises his eyebrows or twitches his eyes. If you notice, his microphone is tucked into his shirt,” said Chin.
Chin has been capturing images of people with disabilities for the past five years and hopes to create awareness about this group of people who he felt were very much neglected by society at large.
“Photography has taught me to appreciate and empathise with these people. I use my photographs as a communication tool to highlight the plight of the disabled,” said Chin.
His latest exhibition, Empathy, is on at the Kuala Lumpur Performing Arts Centre Pentas 2 Foyer until Feb 28.
“These pictures have no commercial value so no major art gallery would display them,” he said.
Chin has also been taking pictures of athletes at the Paralympics since 2004.
“It takes place once every two years with about 1,000 local athletes participating but there’s hardly any audience. How many people actually know that disabled weightlifters lift weights while lying on a bench?” asked Chin.
While at one of these events, Chin noticed a pair of pants propped up against a bench in the men’s changing room — with a prosthetic leg.
“There were also a pair of sandals by the pool with a walking stick lying next to it. It’s all very aesthetically intriguing. You look at the items and wonder what kind of person owns them. I hope it will trigger people’s minds and put them in the disabled’s situation,” said Chin.
Chin suddenly fell silent during this interview as he watched three young men standing in front of a photo of Siti Aishah, who paints with her feet.
“That’s exactly why I took these pictures! I want the public to see for themselves how these people live their lives” said Chin excitedly.
He said Siti Aishah could paint, write, eat and send text messages on her mobile phone with her feet.
While some of the people that Chin had photographed were born with disabilities, some lost their mobility later in life as a result of accidents. “These people are very resilient. To live with it (their disability) is a manifestation of their will to live,” Chin said, adding that it was sad that the disabled often faced a problem in getting jobs.
“Take Yaakob for instance. He sings so well and his hearing is so well-honed but who would think of hiring a blind man to perform at corporate functions?” said Chin.
Through his works, Chin started to know more disabled groups and he tries to bring the different groups together.
“You find that whether they are blind, deaf, wheelchair-bound or have Down Syndrome, they tend to stick with their own kind so I try to bring them together on a small scale.
“Photography has taught me to appreciate and empathise with them but the disabled themselves also need enlightening,” said Chin.
Viewing hours are from 10am to 10pm daily. For details, contact Chin at 016-268 0258 or email email@example.com.