Of the 72 million people in Turkey, 12.3% are disabled (and the numbers are growing). Social stigmas abound and public policy is stagnant. Though special education was first begun under the Ottoman Empire in 1889, today's activity can best be described as silence. Without an increase in education, public awareness, and discussion, the disabled population will continue to be unheard and unseen.
In April 2009, A Face to Reframe conducted a beta project with nine mentally disabled youth in Antalya, Turkey. They were given cameras and paired with a volunteer "coach" and asked to answer different questions through their pictures: What is beautiful? What is ugly? They also had a scavenger hunt clinic and a portrait clinic. This is a sampling of their work.
Entrusting a digital camera to a child who has never used more than crayons in an artistic expression communicates a value and worth in her humanity.
The goal of this project was not to teach photography, nor is the success of this method dependent upon skill. Cameras are a non-threatening and yet still exciting technology; not demanding great technical maneuvering, and yet capable of communicating great depths. For children, particularly disabled children, they are a useful tool to empower their voices to be heard. It is not about the quality of the picture, but about the perspective of the one behind the lens.
As one of the outcomes of the Muted Voices project, A Face to Reframe published a book, highlighting the work, perspective and authorship of the 9 disabled youth. These photos unveil a dignity within these men and women that has been painfully overlooked. Through this book, we were able to raise awareness and advocacy,
as well as literally make authors of the participants.