This is an interview with cultural management student Lisa Weigelt. She is doing a photography project about the inclusion and acceptance of wheelchair users in Germany and the main idea is to take photographs of people not showing their wheelchairs. She will share more of her experiences about the conduction of such a project and the implications of a socially difficult issue. The original interview was done in German.
Can you introduce yourself in a few words?
I am Lisa, I study cultural management. I am passionate about photography. I am a curious and open-minded person and I love to campaign to solve social ills.
What is it all about?
I went to find wheelchair users and then travelled my region for half a year to take photographs and interview the people I got in touch with. The next step was then to ponder over the type of event I wanted to organize and who would profit from my project. Finally I decided to organize my event in a venue my mother owns: The ‚Backhaus’.
The title ‚Not anyways but just because’ derives from a typical comment many people make „You are tied to a wheelchair and you study anyways?“ It is a bit about the fact that many people developed in the way they did and chose to do what they do JUST BECAUSE they sit in a wheelchair not despite their handicap.
Who is your project directed to?
It is mainly directed to people that have never had real encounters with people in wheelchairs. At the same time however it is also directed to the people in wheelchairs that will hopefully experience a new appreciation through my project. There are wheelchair users that are excluded from any social activities that could be integrated in such a way. I want to show that on the other hand, too, there are wheelchair users that do not even flinch from going on holidays.
How did it all start?
We had a seminar at university that we had to initiate a photography project for. Its subject should be any kind of social problem. I especially went for wheelchair users because I have a very good friend who is a wheelchair user herself. Through her I got to know about the issues that she encounters on a daily basis, I know what is easy and what is difficult to do for her and what particularly troubles her in her everyday life.
How effective do you consider cultural projects to be?
Very much so! I think that people are more open to confront themselves with social injustice when you allow them to approach the topic playful, artistic and hands-on manner, rather than when I simply put an info board somewhere. People are familiar with photographs and can relate to them. Therefore I think they are more open. Culture often carries a positive connotation. It is not solely opera and theater but street art, too, for instance. Once something is aesthetically appealing, once culture is aesthetically appealing, people rather engage with something than if they are exposed to a disturbing play, let’s say.
How and where did you get help and support?
With other students first and foremost. Moreover the people I took the photographs of, the wheelchair users really supported me. It was difficult to establish these contacts; you cannot simply check the telephone book and seek for wheelchair users. Instead I talked to as many people as possible about my project and thereby obtained numbers and names. I requested financial aid with several instances of my municipality. The responses were positive. Furthermore I got assisted financially by my city and a local bank. Apart from that my mother, naturally. She provides the venue and enriches my project with her experience in event planning. Who to invite? Where to put posters?
What difference will your project make?
I would like people that are never really engaged with wheelchair users, stop having that mental barrier and defensive demeanor when they meet wheelchair users. The mutual encounter shall become more natural and relaxed and the acceptance in society increased. Thereby fostering inclusion logically. In the long term it would be great if it finally got easier for wheelchair users to find jobs.
How can anyone support you?
By reflecting on the issue yourself, discussing it with friends and family and spreading the word out there, maybe even initiating similar projects. For that purpose I am more than happy to lend my pictures! Also, you are cordially invited to attend my vernissage!
Are you planning more projects?
I would like to continue the project. Currently I am planning to exhibit in another location but meanwhile keep on meeting wheelchair users in other regions than mine and thereby expanding the collection. I would love to have a permanent exhibition somewhere, my exhibition unfortunately only lasts two days. To put my pictures somewhere for an entire year would be an amazing opportunity.
Some words to wrap up?
It is my wish to show that inclusion starts in the head. Everyone is cordially invited to come and see my vernissage. First pictures and thoughts, as well as the exchange with the wheelchair users I met can also be found on my website!
For the photographs visit her website and choose ‘Projekte’. www.projektausloeser.de
Interview done by Svea Freiberg #TeamSkies