Eric’s Note: Ollie Gapper is a passionate and young street photographer who found it as a medium to quite literally take the pain out of his everyday life. Make sure to read his story how he got started with street photography as well as a film he produced for his class!
My childhood was unique. To be born with a disability is a strange experience, feeling like every ache, pain, dislocation, bruise and cut is just normal, but being told by those around you differently causes you to constantly question your own perception of just about everything. As I grew and matured I realized that what I have is both a severe disability and a unique opportunity. An opportunity to make the very best out of a very bad situation. With near constant trips to London for hospital appointments I tried to find something I could do to break the monotony and negative stigma I’d attached to such visits. I found street photography.
Suddenly I started seeing things differently. Roads, crowds, people, postures, gestures, actions and movements turned into shapes, lines and tone, all catchable with the little black box hanging on my neck.
I began meticulously researching and learning any and everything to do with my chosen medium, my eyes greedily and relentlessly consuming the work of Henri Cartier-Bresson, William Klein, Diane Arbus, Bruce Gilden, Andreas Gursky, Chris Weeks, Chase Jarvis and numerous other photographic greats, past and present, spanning across the vast spectrum of photography. I was subconsciously absorbing elements of their styles, creating a cocktail of visual elements that would slowly become massive inspirations and influences on my work.
After a while of shooting on the street, I realized that it was the only thing that has ever allowed me to be completely myself. The voice in my head turned off and I was allowed to be completely alone for seconds at a time, in complete, ignorant bliss. For the few seconds I had the camera pressed to my face the only things that mattered were shutter speed, ISO, aperture and composition, not the pain shooting down my spine or where the next place I could sit was. If someone confronted me for taking their picture, it was just another distraction. If my camera stopped working, it occupied my mind. If I dropped my lens all I was thinking of was picking it up. My disability and pain was still there, in fact it was getting worse, but it had less of a hold on my life. I felt normal again and, whats more, I had purpose.
Since then I’ve won awards, gained commissions, met the girl of my dreams and been accepted into university, all thanks to photography. I can confidently say that I have made the absolute best out of a bad situation, seeing my dis/inability to do many things as a reason to do one. Street photography saved my life, whats your excuse?
Life: Through a Viewfinder Video
How does shooting street photography affect your personal and every-day life? Share your stories and experiences below!