Speakers, press, awardees, awards….there was so much happening at the Global Ability Photography Challenge award ceremony. This was the first time that I was a part of arranging a large-scale event, and I was definitely feeling a range of emotions!
The Global Ability Photography Challenge is a unique contest initiated by the Youth4Jobs (Y4J) Foundation in collaboration with the Indian Photo Festival (IPF). For my Banyan Impact fellowship, I have been placed with Youth4Jobs Foundation whose prime focus is on providing employment to persons with disabilities in the organized sectors. In the past 10 years, Youth4Jobs has invested in the abilities of young people with disabilities through long-term livelihood connections and the promotion of their art, and celebrating the artistic talents of people with disabilities through photography. As Youth4Jobs marks its tenth anniversary this year, the organization has conducted this unique challenge and is excited to welcome photographers with disabilities on a global scale to take part in this unique photography exhibition.
Every differently abled photographer, whether a professional or an amateur, was eligible for the Ability Challenge. The major goal of the challenge was to encourage society to view people with disabilities and disability itself in a fresh light by promoting entries that celebrated stories—their own or others’ and their character. The disability stereotypes that we encounter on a daily basis must be contested and Youth4Jobs is a platform that celebrates their originality through photographs, allowing others to know that their impairment is simply one of the characteristics that gives them a unique character. The challenge was held from August 2022 to October 2022.
Alongside IPF, a thorough selection procedure was used to identify images that exhibit strong message-conveying qualities in terms of composition, subject, and light. The top 15 finalists were chosen, and their images will be on display from December 9 through December 18 at the State Art Gallery in Hyderabad. All of the chosen photos had to be printed and framed carefully for the exhibition. I had an unique experience with the selection and printing process since it helped me learn how to discern the difference between a great and a good photo and how to choose the proper printing size.
Five winners will be chosen from the 15 finalists. The winners received invitations to Hyderabad and were awarded a cash prize of Rs. 25,000/- at the award ceremony on 9th December, 2022, in appreciation of their exceptional photography abilities and to further support their passion for photography. Y4J decided to fully sponsor the winners’ attendance to the award ceremony and we took care of the logistical and budget related arrangements. We had to be mindful of the winners’ disabilities and make sure that all of their unique requirements and expectations were met. Here, I learnt how to focus on providing equitable spaces for persons with disabilities and making sure they have a pleasant stay. Following bookings, I interviewed each winner to create a success story note that will be printed and displayed alongside the photograph. Also, two of my co-fellows attended the event and we had a great time together!
From my observation, almost all of the participants in the challenge were dealing in some way with figuring out how to incorporate photography into their lives and what role it is supposed to play and should play — a hobby, passion, or a profession. Clicking photographs and developing an interest often provides an escape from disability-related stigma and its effects on their self-confidence. For several individuals with disabilities, photography provides an opportunity to excel when other pursuits might be challenging, and thereby to gain confidence and a sense of accomplishment.
Receiving, coordinating, and making sure the winners had a good time here in Hyderabad is one aspect I really enjoyed working on. Differently abled individuals face several obstacles to success in almost every industry, including the arts. Due to their disability, artists may find it challenging to communicate with potential customers or art representatives. Their creations might be discounted, offered for sale for less than it is worth, or categorized in a way that is disrespectful of the artist’s intentions. Differently abled artists might not always use their work to advocate for people with disabilities. They may also choose to create art which focuses on themes and messages that are more intersectional, in order to express their disability experience through the arts. Differently abled should not be patronized or restricted to a single category; rather, they should be valued for their considerable talents and distinctive artistic visions, regardless of the subject matter or method.
The event received a very enthusiastic response, and the foundation plans to hold the challenge on a global scale in the subsequent years. The experience made me aware of how people with disabilities are often overlooked even if they are fully capable of participating in society’s cultural aspects. I believe we can only develop the vision necessary to confront narrow thinking by ensuring that disability arts and culture play an integral part in the struggle. Supporting the development of a differently abled community in photography is no less than starting the radical process of transforming ourselves from passive, dependent beings into active, creative agents of social change.
PS – The exhibition took place from 9th December, 2022 to 18th December, 2022 at State Art Gallery, Hyderabad.
Kannan Kaviya hails from Madurai, Tamil Nadu. She is a recent Economics Graduate from Osmania University, Hyderabad. Along with her bachelor’s degree, she also completed a diploma in Computer Applications. She has interned with multiple organizations during her degree, especially in the think tank and development sectors in the capacity of student researcher, creative writer, editor and policy research intern. She is passionate about Economics and Finance and hopes to make a career out of it. She is an articulate, confident person who relishes challenges and promptly works towards it. Her greatest strengths are her research, communication, technical and writing skills.