March is National Disabilities Awareness Month. At Mimeo Photos, we want to use this month to bring awareness to the work that is being done to celebrate and improve the lives of people with developmental disabilities.
Through photography, Aina Gomez is able to share the unique stories of the lives of people with disabilities. Read on to learn how she uses her camera lens to capture the characteristics and traits of her very special subjects.
How did you get into photography?
Long story short: I was a filmmaker first, so I transitioned from the moving image to the still image.
Eight years ago, still with my film producer hat, running a production company with my partner while still nursing our daughter, my partner passed away. How many pictures did we manage to get as a family? One. Just one in 7 months. I had been running around telling people's stories through documentaries and forgot to tell my own. I realized how important photography was. It's not about vanity and it's not a luxury; it's our life story.
What is the project you’re most proud of and why?
Definitely Double Special. I am proud to help everyone tell the story of who they are, but Double Special holds a "special" place in my heart as it stems from something very personal. There is also another project I hope I can share in the future, but for now is hidden away somewhere in a cloud.
What is Double Special?
Double Special is a project that celebrates all the other characteristics and traits that make children with special needs extra special (Double Special). Regardless of how a child is Double Special, we can highlight it through photography.
By capturing a child on film, in the moment, doing the very things that make them Double Special, we will be able to show that they are far more than the tag they wear.
Why is this project special to you?
My sister has Down syndrome, so children with special needs is a subject that’s very close to my heart. I have seen with my own eyes how my sister is far more special than the tag she wears and how truly unique she is as a person (condition aside).
I’m also a qualified teacher, so working with children is not only important to me, but something that I’m very familiar with. In fact, I previously directed a documentary about special needs called “No hurries”, which was backed by the Spanish ministry of culture, so projects of this nature aren’t new to me.
What does inclusivity in photography mean to you/why is it important?
Inclusivity is something that as a society we are still learning to integrate in many spaces we live in, so it is important to see it as often as we can. In the past, children with special needs - especially the more dire ones - would be hidden away and those with conditions that made them fit in a bit better would be branded or stigmatized.
However, what we see exists, and what exists gets talked about, becomes normal and solutions are found (if needed!) So, being able to deliver this project means I am giving inclusivity as a whole that extra push. When it comes to photography, inclusivity means not sticking to the superficial.
Where do you look for inspiration?
Funnily enough, lots of my inspiration comes from reading! So not a very visual inspiration for a visual result! Other than that, I also find inspiration in art, especially art that can be experienced. I then try and bring that sensory part of photography to my shoots, by trying to make them more of an experience.
Whose work has influenced you most?
If I stick to photographers, I'd say Francesca Woodman. Her whole body of work feels like a haunted house and I love it. What influenced me about her though was that through her I learnt how photography could be a means for expression, not just a reflection of what was in front of you. It might sound obvious to some, but it was an eye-opener for me when I thought you could only express yourself with words.
What do you think is a good starter camera for your type of photography?
I really am of the opinion that a camera does not make a photographer. There is so much that goes on in front of the camera that is much more important than the camera itself! In fact, I teach and challenge children and teenagers online to work on this. They have access to so many devices with cameras, that they can even choose! Most of what I teach there has more to do with composition, color, and being open to what is around you. I do include a bit of technical aspects here and there, but that is not as relevant for me.
Something I recommend doing at some point is either using a Polaroid camera or making sure you print. Knowing your photos are going to be printed makes you be much more precious about what you are doing, and you become less click-happy. Clicking away like there's no tomorrow doesn't help. There needs to be some degree of self-criticism in order to improve.