My name is Whitney; my premature birth was traumatic and resulted in a stroke. As I was growing up other issues became apparent and I was diagnosed with a Non Verbal Learning Disorder. During this time I was also diagnosed with an Anxiety Disorder with some obsessive compulsive tendencies. Mostly I tried to keep to myself and avoid crowds. Not easy when you grow up in a large family, my father used a power wheelchair and my siblings had different diagnoses, we were a foster family so there were kids coming and going for the first ten years of my life. My parents are advocates for people with disabilities so we had lots of interesting adventures growing up; like going to D.C. for conferences with a heavy dose of sightseeing and some marches and protests thrown in for good measure. These were not always to my liking but my parents hoped that the exposure would be good for me. I believe I am more tolerant of people’s differences because of all the travel.
About this time I started to take my own photographs on a “101 Dalmatians” camera that used 110 film. Photography has been extremely important to me; it has been a way of putting distance between myself and the world I observe. While working on my Bachelor’s Degree in Graphic Design I explored the world of Adobe Creative Suite and now use Photoshop and InDesign to manipulate my photographs to express many different moods and insights. Someone once asked where I got all my models; it’s just me, allowing others a glimpse into a part of myself that I could not otherwise share. The changes I make to my photographs are done in careful layers; I want to experiment with options that alter the world I see, careful not to destroy what lies beneath.
Whitney has been a challenge and a joy since the first day we met her. In 1989, if you were born to a woman who used drugs you might have been labeled a “jittery” baby. In those days they were careful not to accuse addicted moms for fear they would not seek follow-up care for themselves or the baby. Now they take a more enlightened approach and treat such babies as addicts (because they are) and ease them off the drugs with the aid of methadone or similar treatments.
Whitney came into the world addicted to barbiturates and probably many other substances and was forced to quit cold turkey. The jitters, sweats, and inconsolability, among other manifestations of the trauma were very real and very painful. Neuroscience has proven that trauma suffered by a baby before the acquisition of language leaves permanent scars (PTSD), and will have lasting consequences.
The upside of the stroke and all the rest of it, if I may put a positive spin on it, is that Whitney has an exceptionally creative eye. She sees things in new ways, the beauty in a blossom past it’s prime and the ability to morph it into a butterfly; details of common objects that we have failed to notice. I, like most people can take pretty good pictures, Whitney, unlike most people has the ability to turn the commonplace into an art form.