Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Gallery Artist Vincenzo Pietropaolo Interview For Wellsphere Website

Snapshots of humanity
By Louise

Invisible No More records the lives of Canadian children and adults with intellectual disabilities through 100 photos and 35 stories from renowned social documentary photographer and writer Vincenzo Pietropaolo. Vincenzo spent a year travelling to every Canadian province and territory to meet with individuals with developmental disabilities and their families. He photographed them in everyday places - at school, in the workplace, at home, at the zoo, and on an ice rink. He spent days at a time with them, talking to them and writing about what he saw and experienced. I was moved to hear about what he learned and can't wait to see this book.

BLOOM: How did the idea for this book originate?

Vincenzo Pietropaolo: The Canadian Association for Community Living had its 50th anniversary coming up and they asked if I'd submit an idea for a book. I've done long-term projects on immigrants, refugees, cities and so on - but all with a social dimension. They liked my proposal and did some fundraising to send me across the country.

BLOOM: What kind of experience had you had with disability?

Vincenzo Pietropaolo: I was very ignorant about intellectual disability and had only had superficial contact with people with disabilities. There was a boy in my neighbourhood growing up - but we almost never saw him. All the kids would be playing on the street, and sometimes this kid would come out on his verandah. But then his mom would come and tell him to come in. I wanted to call the book Invisible No More because I felt that all of my life these people had been very much invisible. Families are sometimes ashamed, or society is ashamed, and these people were hidden in homes or in institutions.

BLOOM: What did you learn on your trip?

Vincenzo Pietropaolo: I learned that I don't really know what a disability is any longer. Disability is a very loaded word and we're all disabled to a certain extent. When the book came out some people said: "Some of these people don't look like they have a disability. What's your point?" One of the places I photographed was in factories where people were working for pay like everyone else. When I arrived, I couldn't tell who had the 'supposed' disability. Usually the boss had to point the person out and told me: "I wish I had 10 guys like him because they're the best workers: never late, conscientious." Of course sometimes you can tell someone has a disability because of physical attributes, or because they require a lot of care. I learned that people with disabilities have fewer human rights. They are presumed to have disabilities before they are necessarily disabled. They are presumed to be different, or that something is wrong with them. The experience was humbling and transformative for me. I saw that these are human beings who need care or support. But what makes us a great civilization is whether we make enough room for everyone in our society. How can we not do that in Canada, as one of the richest countries in the world?

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Stay tuned, the gallery will have an official launch for the book in early December!

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