What do you want to be when you grow up? If you could do one thing, what would it be?
I asked these questions of 35 Key West residents with intellectual and physical disabilities. Over the next 12 months the MARC House residents stood before my camera and transformed into a fighter pilot, a fireman, a villain… even James Bond. The camera captured their moments, but the biggest transformations happened beyond the lens.
The project with the MARC House (Monroe Association of Retarded Citizens) started in 2008 with a “day in the life” editorial style concept. Initial meetings with the residents led to participation in their events. That participation led to new friendships and it wasn’t long before I was coaching a bocce league with some truly remarkable people.
My approach to photography has always been personal when it comes to breaking down barriers between subject and viewer. I wanted the world to know how the MARC citizen’s viewed themselves and, with this in mind, created questionnaires to steer the goals of the new project: Allow each MARC citizen, if only for a moment, to live their dream.
Authenticity was key. Real sets for real dreams. A coach’s portrait on a real football field during a live practice with an official uniform. A doctor’s portrait in Lower Keys Medical Center’s new CAT scan facility. A City of Key West fire engine and an authentic squad car. Each scene brought challenges, but they were far outweighed by the rewards. The final portraits were unveiled in early November during a special reception at The Studios of Key West. Each resident stood proudly beside their portrait, posing for more photos and answering questions from an emotional audience.
15 agencies, 32 sponsors, 35 dreams and 1 community helped this project come together. I started this project as a man with a camera. As it continues, I’m a man with a camera who has been forever changed by other peoples dreams.