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Video+Gallery+Story: Photographer Inspires With Stunning Work, Life Story

I’m lazy. Really. There are times when I will grab onto the slightest excuse to do absolutely nothing and just lay in bed. The memory of a splinter in my little toe from six years ago is enough to give me a headache, and it’s a wrap for the day.

So, while surfing a photographers group on Facebook, I was put to shame. I was in one of my pity me moments because of the pain I was in, and that’s when I saw a short video and some amazing photos.

It’s a rare thing to find someone who can inspire you, or move you; someone who makes you want to improve your craft or try new things. I found that person, of all places, on Facebook.

Greg Wickenburg lives in Chandler, Arizona. Greg is a photographer who also happens to be a C/5 quadriplegic.

There I was, watching a man who is confined to a wheelchair taking photos and winning awards. When I first read his post and heard his story, I was sitting in my bedroom bemoaning the pain of osteoarthritis.

Just then my pain, and thoughts of “I can’t do (and you can fill in the blank with just about anything) because of this darn pain!” began to melt away.

After reading his story, I began to feel ashamed of myself and my selfish actions and thoughts. How could I possibly think there was nothing worse than my pain at that moment. Right then was when I decided I had to meet Greg Wickenburg and hear his story. So, off to Arizona, we went.

Somewhere along the way, my body began to put up a fight. The inflatable bed that one night at my niece’s house deflated, and every bone and muscle was going to tell me about it that afternoon. I was still thinking of Greg.

Greg has always enjoyed photography, collecting coffee table books. Throughout the years he has tried to take up photography but was unable to due to the limitations of older cameras. Having to shoot film, have it developed, and then hope you have at least one shot out of a roll of thirty-six can be daunting.

Even harder after his accident.

At seventeen, Greg was in a car accident that left him paralyzed from the shoulders down. Though he has movement in his arms, he cannot use his hands, fingers, or his legs. Then there was the first digital cameras that didn’t have touch screens and would be hard for Greg to use.

Having to find a way to mount it, focus, and capture the shot would have been hard. Cameras today, like the Canon 70D are the perfect fit for Greg.

“The new cameras have the touch screen,” says Greg. “The touch screen back that you can swing out of the way.  Another friend of his, who is also in a wheelchair, gave him the mount he uses to attach a tripod mount.

Then, add one camera, and he’s ready to take photographs.

“I just travel the neighborhoods,” Greg says. “I’ve been probably in every single neighborhood.” What Greg does is take a photo of someone at his home. They will stand in front of a white backdropthat he has, or they will stand with the sun behind him.

Then, he will go out looking for something in theneighborhood to mix with the silhouette. When the photos are put together, the results are spectacular.

Greg likes nature shots the best. In fact, the ones he entered into a photo competition were nature shots, and he won. He came in first in the overall photo, and also two first places and a third. Not bad for your first-time entering a contest.

Greg likes and wants to shoot nature photos. The problem is, “I can’t get close enough, I’m too slow to focus,” he says. “But there is a little lake up the street, and it has some ducks all the time.” These are ducks that have, for the most part, become used to people coming about and watching them.

Still, Greg’s chair is older and makes a lot of noise, and sometimes the birds will fly away.

There is a photo of a roadrunner that Greg took. “It was just a random act,” he said. The roadrunner was just sitting on the fence when Greg was out and about, and he was able to capture the shot. It’s a good one, that roadrunner.

“Babies, I would like to get a baby sometime,” Greg begins when I asked him what he would really like to photograph. “A husky dog, and just I’d like to get a whole bunch of different dogs and start a library of dogs.”

Greg admits he is still learning, and going around the house to see what he can shoot, and use for a silhouette. Bottles, his mom, their dog Roo. The options there are limitless. Still, I would love to see what he could do with a baby or even a husky.

I did learn that Greg is offering his art for sale, and has a GoFundMe page. He does need a new van to get around. The one he has is older and almost past being usable. Then there is the amount it costs to convert it to use with his wheelchair so that he can get in and out. If he’s able to get a new van, there is a company that will do the conversion for free- they only do conversions on new vehicles, not used
ones.

When I interview someone, I always like to give them the last word. Sometimes I will hear something that will cause me to ask a ton of additional questions. Other times, they will say something that you wish you had asked about during the interview.

I gave Greg that same opportunity.

Greg has fun with what he is doing. He does enjoy it, despite the fact he is confined to a wheelchair. He loves what he does, and he enjoys sharing it with everyone. “I hope they enjoy my photographs. It’s been a lot of fun,” he said. “It’s always nice to get good feedback and somebody to tell you that you’ve done a good job. So, it’s been fun.”

Fun.

I’ve been thinking about that. Would I have that same attitude if I were in his shoes? I’m facing my problems and health issues. Have I seen the fun in everything I do? I don’t think so. I don’t. I wonder how many of us can say that we are having fun.

I drove up to Chandler looking to interview a fellow photographer, and share with you the beauty he sees. I didn’t know I was going to be learning a lesson about life, and the way we should face it. Even when he emailed me about the accident he was in, there was no bitterness or anger.

“Just a fluke,” is how he described it. I think I need to start seeing the world, and my life differently.

If you’ve read this far, I want to invite you to take a moment and watch the interview with Greg. I can’t convey the light that emanates from him or finds the words to describe his smile.

You can also find Greg, and his work, at any of the following:
Facebook  |  Art One Gallery  |  Fine Art America  |   GoFundMe   |   Instagram

About Steven Cottingham

Steven Cottingham is an artist, poet (haiku, tanka, senryu) as well as a photographer. Growing up, he wanted to be a columnist, as well as photojournalist. Life, and poor decision, led him down a different path. Today, Steven is chasing those dreams. He is currently working on his next book, as well as starting a small poetry journal. You may visit Steven, online, at www.StevenCottinghamPhotography.com

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9 comments

  1. Amazing. I find his work very beautiful and thought provoking. It is a juxtaposition of two worlds. I love it.

    Thank you for sharing this story! This man, and his work deserve to go viral!

  2. I thank you so much for writing this great article and I thank you all for reading it. I hope you enjoy my photographs. Greg

  3. I am a paraplegic. When I was 17 I was hot by a drunk driver, and have been riding a chair since. I kind if gave up my dream of being a photographer. Reading this, I think I’ll try.

  4. This is a very positive and inspirational story and video. Thank you for making this and sharing story of Greg with us.

  5. Amazing article about a wonderful and inspiring photographer. I hope Greg finds the funds he needs to get a new van and maybe even a new wheelchair.

    Reading about him shows that life doesn’t end after an accident and in even the bleakest situation you can find joy.

  6. Great video, great story. I love how this man, Greg, is not hanging about and moaning about his condition. He is very inspiring.

    I hope he will get the van he needs. I really do!

  7. I love the ‘dogwood.’ It’s really great, terribly original! Thank you!

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