Canadian Wildlife - - WILD THINGS -

Many pho­tog­ra­phers say their cam­eras are ex­ten­sions of them­selves, but this is usu­ally meant in a metaphor­i­cal sense; for me it is lit­eral. Re­ally, my jour­ney to be­come a pho­tog­ra­pher and “Na­tional Ge­o­graphic Ex­plorer” be­gan in a hos­pi­tal when I wasn’t even a year old. I had de­vel­oped peni­cillin-re­sis­tant pneu­mo­coc­cal menin­gi­tis and spent more than a month in in­ten­sive care. I sur­vived with per­ma­nent dam­age to my senses, hav­ing my left eye re­duced to pe­riph­eral vi­sion only and com­plete loss of hear­ing in my right ear.

Through­out my child­hood, I faced many chal­lenges re­gen­er­at­ing my speech and mo­tor skills and just go­ing through ado­les­cence with a dif­fer­ent ex­pe­ri­ence than most. Still, thanks to my

par­ents and fam­ily, I grew up like most kids. The main dif­fer­ence (aside from my dis­abil­i­ties) was my ac­ces­sories: a dual hear­ing aid with a con­nect­ing wire, bi­fo­cal glasses and a huge, sticky eye­patch over my dom­i­nant eye (to try and strengthen my “weak” eye).

My un­cle gave me my first cam­era when I was 14; it changed how I saw and ex­pe­ri­enced the world. Cou­pled with my love for the out­doors and nat­u­ral science — one of my favourite things was go­ing on ad­ven­tures with my big brother col­lect­ing in­sects in the for­est sur­round­ing our home — my cam­era be­came a way for me to com­pen­sate for the senses I had lost.

In univer­sity, I stud­ied en­vi­ron­men­tal science, and by the time I fin­ished my bach­e­lor’s de­gree, I was keenly aware of the di­vide be­tween nat­u­ral science and the pub­lic. I was de­ter­mined to bridge this gap, so I en­rolled in the mas­ter of fine arts in ex­per­i­men­tal and doc­u­men­tary arts at Duke Univer­sity. It was there that

I let my cre­ativ­ity flow and ex­am­ined my jour­ney and pur­pose of work as a doc­u­men­tary pho­tog­ra­pher. I fo­cused my cam­era in­creas­ingly on the small­est and most-over­looked or­gan­isms.

For me, there’s noth­ing quite like the ex­pe­ri­ence of over­turn­ing a log on the damp for­est floor to find an en­tire mi­cro­cosm that can fit in the palms of my hands. I’ve al­ways been fas­ci­nated with what I like to call “un­der­dog species” — the mi­nus­cule, la­tent or­gan­isms that are only the size of a pin­prick. Per­haps I feel this way be­cause I con­sider my­self an un­der­dog too, hav­ing con­quered my child­hood sick­ness to be­come a deaf-blind pho­tog­ra­pher.

There is an eter­nally deep well of bio­di­ver­sity, beauty and unique­ness to the mi­cro­cosms that are hid­den right be­fore our eyes, and you never see the same one twice. All you need to ex­pe­ri­ence th­ese lit­tle worlds is cu­rios­ity, pa­tience and a mag­ni­fy­ing lens.

By Matthew Ci­canese

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