Central Coast Center for Independent Living helps victims put a face to traumatic brain injuries.
Thursday, December 22, 2011
They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but some photos do more than share a story. Victims of traumatic brain injuries (TBI) attending a support group at the Central Coast Center For Independent Living (CCCIL) are using cameras and words to help heal invisible wounds.
At 55, working electrician and avid long-distance cyclist George McCullough survived a harrowing bicycle accident that caused brain injury and left him with limited mobility – forcing him to quit his job and cycling forever.
Working through the depression and physical rehab that so many traumatic brain injury victims face, McCullough found solace in photography, a pastime he enjoyed as an amateur before his accident. “The photography, and getting more involved, gave me something to do that I liked and gave me some self-worth,” McCullough says.
More than ten years later he has embraced his once amateur hobby and is now a professional photographer and member at one of CCCIL’s TBI support groups. There are 14 members in Salinas and 13 in Capitola; both groups give victims of TBI a place to come together, share experiences and take part in art projects.
It was one of these art exercises that gave rise to CCCIL’s Photovoice project led by Irene Garcia, the traumatic brain injury services coordinator at CCCIL. Photovoice participants – cameras in hand – complete this assignment: Make a picture and write a paragraph that tells your story.
Soon after reviewing some of the first photos Garcia knew they had something special. “We thought it would be nice if we could put together an art exhibit.”
And that’s exactly where the project is heading, thanks to a well-known local art hub. “The Steinbeck Center really liked the idea and wanted it to be a main exhibit in one of their galleries,” Garcia says.
Having participated in a photography project with the support group in the past, McCullough is advising fellow group members in the Photovoice project. “The photographers have to sit down and see something that somehow reflects on their head injury and expresses their feelings.”
All the photographers have suffered a TBI, some more severe than others, with causes ranging from falls to bicycle or motorcycle accidents to violence. What they all have in common, however, is the isolation that head injuries result in.
“On the exterior they look fine, but a lot of these people lose friends and relationships,” Garcia explains.
McCullough says there are no good or bad photos, just a group of people hoping to make others aware of tragedies that can happen to anyone at anytime.
Once the editing process is complete, photos selected for the show will be professionally printed with assistance from local photo shop Green’s Camera World, and then go on display at the Steinbeck Center in February, with a formal reception scheduled for TBI Awareness Month in March.