Nolan Ryan Trowe, a Baltimore-based photographer, writer and filmmaker, won $15,000 and the grand prize in the first Disability Stories Creative Bursary sponsored by Getty Images and Verizon Media. Trowe, who has a spinal cord injury, applied for the grant by submitting his black-and-white photo collection entitled Adopted Family. He says he will use the money to further his project documenting the lives of people with disabilities living in Harlem.
Claudia Marks, senior art director at Getty Images, says the purpose of the one-time grant is to “help others create imagery that more authentically portrays the nuanced realities of persons with disabilities, and in turn help the world more broadly see disability in a different light.”
“Naturally we were looking for incredible imagery, but we were also seeking a sort of sensitivity that usually only comes from someone who experiences disability or for whom disability has touched their lives in some capacity,” Marks says. “To that end, we sought narratives that were respectful and insightful, without being exploitative.”
Trowe sustained an L1 spinal cord injury in 2016 and now walks using two canes. “I entered this contest because I believe my story and work are in perfect alignment with the mission statement of the contest. I’m a person with a disability working on a story focused around other people with disabilities,” he says. “My work, especially on this project, is about challenging the nondisabled gaze, meaning I’m not writing or shooting for a nondisabled audience. I don’t have to cater to a nondisabled audience and I don’t intend to. I see my work as a movement to normalize people with disabilities in society and this project is a subtle part of that.”
A grant of $10,000 and three grants of $5,000 were also awarded to four other photographers whose work portrays disability in an authentic manner. Each recipient is also invited to license their content through GettyImages.com at a 100% royalty rate and to receive guidance and mentorship from a Getty Images art director, as well as a feature on Getty Images’ Creative Insights website.
Photo courtesy of Nolan Ryan Trowe/Getty