Like many press photographers, João Maia da Silva is passionate about his job especially when he’s on assignment. In fact, not even his visual impairment could deter him from taking some awe-inspiring photos during the 2016 Paralympics in Rio.
“You don’t need to see to take photographs. My are eyes are in my heart,” explained Maia. He had lost his sight at an early age of 28 after he suffered from unveitis. It is a type of eye inflammation that suddenly blurs your vision. For Maia, the disease soon made him unable to see just about anything, just shapes and colors if he were close enough to the subject. Nonetheless, none of that matter so long as he’s got his camera.
According to a report from AFP, Maia’s journey to becoming a professional sports photographer started at the post office. Before he became a member of the media, Maia had worked as a postman in Sao Paolo. This is where he had learned to be utilize a cane to move around by himself. He also started taking classes in Braille to allow him to read blind. Around the same time, Maia also developed an interest in photography. And no, his visual handicap did not keep him from trying it out.
“Photography is about sensitivity. I think it’s marvelous to be able to show how I perceive the world, how I see it, sense it,” he explained. And so, this is how Maia, now 41, found himself in the company of a number of other sports photographers in the Paralympic stadium during the games.
For this shots, he relies on a little help from his other photographer friends. In fact, he has come to call Leonardo Eroico and Ricardo Rojas his borrowed sets of “eyes.” They had formed a Mobgraphia initiative that helps promote the use of cellphones in photography. They also give much needed encouragement to photographers like Maia who are dealing with extraordinary challenges.
When he first got into professional photography back in 2008, Maia was using a traditional camera. Nowadays, however, he also relies on his handy smartphone to take some of his winning images. He admits he’s always trying to capture more than just a moment. “It’s not just action I want to capture but the intimacy,” he remarked.
Today, Maia is a living testament that nothing is impossible even if the odds seem stacked against you. To view a number of Maia’s outstanding works, check out his Instagram page. Currently, he has over 7,000 followers already.
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