Condition: Pigment Dispersion Glaucoma with Trabectulectomy surgery
1. What is your profession and why did you decide to choose this field?
My profession started in 1971 as an advertising graphic designer, working with many photographers. In 1981, I designed, produced, and self-published the award-winning book "FIRE MOUNTAIN, the Eruptions of Mount Saint Helens". Progressively the investment of time and money paid off with the gift of time, to find my true passion of sharing the beauty of nature through the lens, as a committed fine art landscape photographer, to return to the countryside where I was born, to travel internationally… and through this act of getting lost, I found myself.
In 1996, almost died from complete kidney failure while shooting in the South Seas, my beautiful sister donated her kidney. During the work-up prep, I was diagnosed with Pigment Dispersion Glaucoma, an inherited form. By 2002, noticed the first beginning of permanent vision loss. By 2010, most sight lost, had surgery to slow down the sight loss. At that time, I thought my career was over. But began researching and buying magnifiers of all types to make out the workings of the camera. What minimal sight remaining, I could see just enough to compose...I was alive again, just traveling a different path, a new path.
2. What is the most rewarding thing about what you do?
How am I rewarded? My drive, my passion to share the beauties of nature, to live independently still only a stone's toss from an amazing river, to be that same young boy, even at 72, that was always roaming in the woods, alone. Often, as a child, with family and friends on deer hunting adventures, I would walk away down a path, nature was calling me. Then I could hear my mother in the distance yelling "Where's Gary? He left again!" When I returned, she scolded me, telling me I must tell her where I was going. But I never did, I had to always be on an adventure of discovery, of not knowing where my next step would take me. And to this day, that passion to get lost in nature, in shapes and forms has continually influenced my photography never using a “template” of what, where, and how to shoot, only roaming in and around, letting it capture me first before I capture it.
3. What is your advice to all the other VIPs around the world who don't believe they can be successful in the area of their interest because of their disability?
My advice to other VIP, ones fearing the future with a handicap that only seems impossible to climb... This difficult to answer. I have given many talks and lectures on the art of seeing, my "Journey into Blindness". Many ask me how do I still photograph amidst such a challenge... I just DO it! I never let my handicap pull me...on the contrary, I pull it. I allow my passion to distract me, forgetting I can barely see. My drive, my love for something, for Nature, my duty to share keeps me moving. Of course my vision loss a heavyweight to carry... But darn it, just exercise, use your passion for SOMETHING you deeply desire to build muscles of forwarding movement. Often with vision loss, a large amount of vision loss, this loss of familiar is frightening. But it just a new world of the senses to discover.
the eyes only 2D, but hearing surrounds you in all directions...100D!!! And the world of touch can open up, amazing how powerful simple textures become. Yes, a new world of the senses, a doorway into it before you. No one can push you through...just take the first step, the freshness of experience is something to make your heart smile. A feeling I've long had... If a dog gets into an accident that results in the loss of a leg, in a month, the dog forgets it only has three legs, only wants to chase the ball... yes, we humans take longer to adapt, but the trick is to have a ball or passion to chase... again, don't let your loss pull you, you must pull it along toward the ball... a passion you must keep your energy connected to.