What does it feel like when your voice and ideas are truly heard? The 100 Cameras Project will place cameras in the hands of 100 individuals with developmental and intellectual disabilities throughout the United States and create a series of photography exhibitions that will bring the unheard voices and unseen vision of these new photographers to life while building awareness around issues of disability, diversity, and embracing our differences. My name is Courtney Bent and I’ll be adapting the camera systems and conducting the photography workshops for The 100 Cameras Project. The project is based on a photography program I started at United Cerebral Palsy in Boston, MA. My program was chronicled in the eight-time audience award-winning documentary film, Shooting Beauty, directed by George Kachadorian, which is currently touring the country and is the centerpiece for a national youth based engagement campaign focused on valuing diversity, learning about disabilities and stopping bullying.
It has been my dream, since the premiere of our film, to be able to teach photography to as many individuals with disabilities as possible, and create a series of photo exhibits that not only allows these unique perspectives to be seen but helps start a conversation around disability and ability. Hence...The 100 Cameras Project! With The 100 Cameras Project, I will work with individuals of all ages with varying degrees of disabilities - ranging from autism to down syndrome to Alzheimer’s to cerebral palsy - and will provide many of these individuals with a life changing opportunity to explore an art-form that, up until this project, has not been accessible to them. If successful, the project and exhibitions will not only empower and build confidence in the new photographers, but will stand as an example of the potential of art to heal, to inspire, and to prove to all of us that no matter what our ability levels or differences are, we have more in common than what meets the eye.
Project Background: Over 10 years ago, I set out with my camera to photograph at a local day program that served individuals with disabilities. My goal was to create a picture story for a magazine or newspaper on what it was like to live with a disability. But after weeks of taking pictures, I came to realize that my photographs weren’t giving the full story. The individuals I met were vibrant, fun and fascinating but my images were emphasizing a story of pity- a story that had apparently been my biased and conditioned view of what it was like to live with a disability. I began to feel that these individuals needed to to tell their own stories. They needed to be the ones taking the pictures.
Over the course of the next six years, I adapted cameras for people with a wide range of disabilities—and abilities. Ernest James took pictures by pressing a button with his tongue. Chris Krim hit the shutter of a camera suctioned to his wheelchair. Cheryl Magnusson, who was unable to speak, used a camera covered in foam to allow for easier handling. Over time, I discovered that each new photographer had his or her own interesting, unique and beautiful creative voice; for many this was literally the first voice they ever had. We ultimately created a photography exhibit that brought together people from all walks of life and disabilities, put them in the same room together, and gave them something to talk about- interesting photographs. Our differences no longer mattered when we all had something in common to share.
How it will work: Since the film’s premiere, the Shooting Beauty team has seen an overwhelming interest in continuing the photography workshop featured in the film. Seeing the empowering effect of photography on the group I worked with in Shooting Beauty, let alone the effect that their work had on the broader community, I decided to create The 100 Cameras Project. With this project, I will replicate the photography workshop featured in the film by adapting and providing 100 camera systems for 100 individuals with disabilities throughout the United States. I will travel to the new photographersʼ communities and provide these individuals with 2-3 days of photography instruction. The photo workshops will culminate with an exhibition of photographs and a series of public opening events in local schools, universities, businesses and galleries aimed at showcasing photographs from a unique perspective, breaking down barriers of communication, and encouraging a conversation around disability, diversity, and the possibilities of what we can all do when given a camera, a voice and a chance.
AND.....we need your help to make this all possible! The expenses for each photographer to participate in the project and receive a customized camera system is $1000. In order to support 100 photographers and successfully launch this project, the Shooting Beauty team will need to raise $100,000 by the May 14, 2014. To date, $25,000 has been raised and we need to raise the additional funds through Kickstarter.
The funds will go towards the production costs for the project which include; cost of the photographs for the exhibit, all workshop expenses including cameras for each participant, adaptive equipment to allow cameras to be accessible to individuals with even the most significant disabilities, national travel expenses for Courtney Bent and production time for the Shooting Beauty team. We hope you’ll consider being a part of the project!
Workshop Partners: We are excited to announce that Velcro USA Inc. is an official product and financial sponsor of the 100 Cameras Project! They will be providing us with VELCRO® Brand products for use in all adaptations and hanging of the exhibitions. The Shooting Beauty team is also currently working with a group of organizations to host and identify the new photographers for the project. Our current workshop partners are: Best Buddies Indiana, Baystate Health, Seven Hills Foundation, the Naples Art Association, United Jewish Federation of New York, JCCA Compass Project, SUNY Orange, The Amazing Place, Mid-Island Y JCC, and Creative Growth. Project Partners: Best Buddies International, Velcro USA inc., GoWireless, Working Films, Skip Cohen University, Now or Never Media.
We hope you'll join us!
A NOTE ABOUT KICKSTARTER—Only projects that receive 100 percent of their goal within the allotted time frame will be funded! It is an ALL or NOTHING campaign. Kickstarter campaigns can and often do receive funding beyond their goal. Please Spread the Word! Even if you cannot give, would you please help us get the word out? Please share this link with your family, friends, & contacts! Thank you!
To learn more about the Shooting Beauty programs, visit our website at
Risks and challenges
The biggest challenges for the project are to 1) be able to accommodate all the needs of each photographer during the project and 2) create the groundwork for a self-sustaining photography program where these photographers and future photographers will get the support they need in continuing this art-form. To date, we have secured all workshop sites and feel lucky to have found amazing partner organizations that are fully committed to this project and making sure it has a lasting impact on the community and everyone involved. I feel very lucky to have had the opportunity to conduct workshops throughout the United States since the premiere of the film. Each workshop has allowed me to learn something new in regards to creating a workshop experience that is impactful for not only the photographers but the organizations involved. My experience has allowed me to feel confident that, if given the chance to come to fruition, this project will be successful!Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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