Adopted Family is about the disabled community in New York City, primarily in Harlem. When I moved to NYC in 2017, I didn't know a soul. As a wheelchair user, the city was especially lonely and trying. The first few months of graduate school pushed me to the brink of exhaustion.
I went to a wheelchair basketball tournament in Brooklyn, where I met my friend Alex, who introduced me to all of his friends who would become my friends, and ultimately my adopted family. They took me in, with no questions asked. I became an adopted son of New York.
I had my camera with me wherever I went, and I photographed my friends along the way. At that time, I didn't realize how underrepresented and photographed the disabled community is. And when we are photographed it's usually lies at one end of the spectrum between pity or inspiration. I seldom saw stories about people with disabilities that showed real life: love, family, work, school, struggles and beauty. The nuance of life seems to be so often missing from stories about the disabled community.
I didn't set out to do anything radical. I didn't realize that showing my friends' lives or my own would be considered radical, because I was simply going out and making pictures about our daily lives in the city. It wasn't until my human rights professor pointed out the lack of imagery about my community that I started to see the need for a project like mine.
At first I only photographed my friends' lives. However, I began to see my role and agency in the photos as not just a member of the family but as a storyteller. Slowly but surely I added my own narrative into the grand scheme of the story itself.
This project is ongoing, but has been on hold since covid. I got a Getty grant to continue the work. The next phase of this project is a participatory media aspect built around a co-creative ethos. This summer, when I go back to the city, I will distribute cameras to all of my friends so that they can photograph their own lives and mine. Their voice is essential for the evolving truth.