Deaf artist fights stigma through photography

Accepting her disability has been a life-long struggle for Australian photographer Kate Disher-Quill. Born with mild to moderate hearing loss, Disher-Quill rejected her disability in her formative years, often refusing to discuss or acknowledge it. Now, she has created a photography series that aims to embrace deafness or hearing loss in all its forms, and to fight the societal stigmas around disability. For the project, which is called Right Hear, Right Now: Breaking down barriers of deafness and hearing loss, Disher-Quill met with individuals of all ages who have “experienced deafness in some way” in order to photograph them and share their stories.

“‘Right Hear, Right Now’ is about empowering people to accept and embrace their differences, to raise awareness and to ultimately transform negative perspectives into ones of inspiration and understanding. To educate people on what it means to be capital “D” Deaf, deaf, Hard-of-Hearing, hearing impaired or to have a hearing loss, and to empower those who have felt the need to hide a part of their identity,” Disher-Quill explains in her artist’s statement. “Essentially this project is something that I would have liked to have seen when I was ten, sixteen, twenty-one and twenty-six years old. A project which may have inspired me to accept my hearing loss long before I actually did.”

Each individual who participates in the project contributes a brief personal statement. One of the women Disher-Quill photographed, a dancer in her early thirties named Anna, stated, “I don’t consider myself to have a hearing loss. I was born profoundly deaf, so if I never had hearing in the first place, I never lost anything. Dancing makes me feel alive…While I cannot hear the nuances in the music, or the lyrics, feeling the heavy beats gives me energy and keeps me connected to the choreography and the act of performing. I think its more about our relationship with rhythm than to music…”

Right Hear, Right Now is currently being exhibited at the No Vacancy Gallery in Melbourne Australia and closes on August 28. Disher-Quill is working on creating an online platform for the project. According to the website, you can contact the artist at [email protected] if you are interested in getting involved with the project.

Photo by Kate Disher-Quill, used with permission.

Emily Pate is a third-year student at Seattle University interested in Strategic Communications, learning Spanish, and working with non-profits. Her work for Rooted In Rights is focused on discussing current events in the community of people with disabilities. Her experience previous to Rooted In Rights includes writing broadcasts for KBOO radio in Portland, OR, and managing a neighborhood blog in the Seattle community. In addition to work, Emily enjoys drawing, spending time with her friends and family, and backpacking.