Disability Issues

Students' photography tells story of Easter Seals

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Easter Seals DuPage and the Fox Valley Region have been giving photography students a unique opportunity to be part of the lives of children with disabilities.

For 10 years, the College of DuPage photography department has been capturing significant milestones of children and young adults with disabilities through inspiring photographs. These are moments families never want to miss.

Photographs taken by students from College of DuPage proudly hang on the walls of Easter Seals DuPage and the Fox Valley Region. Mary Alice D'Arcy is the president and CEO.

"I sit back and walk around, I look at those photos and it absolutely just tells your story. You don't have to almost say anything to articulate your mission what the story is of Easter Seals because of the power and the warmth communicated through this photography," said D'Arcy.

Photojournalism students are matched with a child selected by staff at Easter Seals for their final course project, said associate professor Terry Vitacco.

"They do a whole in-depth photo essay where they spend many weeks working with the family, and what they would do is they come in with a list of questions and find out what is this child interested in, what does the family do on a regular basis. It's completely non-scripted," Vitacco said.

Photography student Petra Ford had two children to work with. Ten-year-old Matthew Yaniz was one of them.

"I spent maybe three or four weeks following him around. I went to baseball games, and to his friend's house, and Dairy Queen. One day he was really fun to photograph, he didn't even notice me behind camera with him," Ford said.

Matthew was born with a rare condition.

"When I was born I had a brachial plexus injury on my arm, and sometimes I can't do stuff that other people can do, but I always find a way how to do it," said Matthew. "I catch with my left hand and then I also throw with my left hand, so I catch the ball, transfer the ball to my right hand, and whip off the mitt, and transfer the ball to my left hand and throw it."

Matthew is photographed with his dad.

"I like my photograph. I think that it was good, and I was high-fiving my dad," Matthew said.

But Matthew's mom Cathy said there was more to this.

"It was a very organic moment. He had just hit a triple, and that's my husband running over there to give him a high-five," said Cathy Yaniz.

While Easter Seals see their accomplishments, families see moments of success, and photographers get a lifetime lesson on disability.

"It made me really understand and realize life is the same that it is for us, they just have a lot more challenges that they are overcoming and are working really had to overcome, and it's really been eye-opening for me to see that they don't let those disability or challenges stop them from trying to do the things that they want to do," said Ford.

A new year and a new group of photography students will become a part of Easter Seals' photography exhibition.

For more information go to www.eastersealsdfvr.org/photo_exhibit_ourjourney and www.cod.edu/photo/photojournalism.

(Copyright ©2014 WLS-TV/DT. All Rights Reserved.)

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