This is one of those inspiring stories that hit you in the gut. This is the story of Joao Maia, a 41-year-old photographer at the Rio Paralympics. A photographer is often defined by their creativity to ‘see’ and capture the moments that many fail to notice, but for Joao Maia, this job is done by his heart and not his eyes. Yes! He is a blind photographer.
About Joao Maia
Joao Maia was not born blind. It was at the age of 28 when he was diagnosed with uveitis, a condition that leads to the inflammation of the iris and slowly reduces the field of vision. His condition worsened over a period of one year and left him without the ability to see anything more than vague shapes and colours.
Joao Maia continued to work as a postman in Sao Paulo, learned braille and soon developed an interest in photography.
The Journey To Rio
It might come across as a surprise to many of us as to how a man, who is aware of his disability, can choose a field that completely relies on composing the right elements in the frame, and requires a lot of observation in order to deliver the best results. To all such perspectives that may not seem encouraging, Maia has a very simple answer – he says that even though he is not able to see, he is still able to feel.
Maia started off by practicing with a regular camera in 2008, but now uses a smartphone which provides great focusing. He has always appreciated sports, and this served as his motivation to venture into sports photography.
He began practicing by listening to the footsteps and vibrations of the running athletes, during their practice sessions. However, he did not continue to take shots of the track events, as he found it difficult to be able to concentrate and capture the right moment because of the noise, and the distance from the tracks during the real event. Therefore, he decided to restrict himself and soon found satisfaction in shooting the long jump event.
Maia’s Borrowed Eyes
Maia uses a smartphone instead of a regular camera, and it’s with the help of Leonardo Eroico and Ricardo Rojas and their Mobgraphia initiative for promoting art through mobile phone photography, has helped Maia deliver great quality photographs. Eroico and Rojas apart from motivating Maia also promote his work on social media networks and carry out edits to his pictures.
With the Rio Paralympics checked off Maia’s list, he now hopes to cover the Tokyo Paralympics, 2020. Maia’s work is phenomenal, and his story shows that obstacles are a mere way of life. He manages to portray emotions through his photographs, which in a very subtle yet crisp way make us value his work, and overshadow his disability.
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