Melbourne photographer Kate Disher-Quill will launch her latest photography book, Earshot, a poignant collection of beautiful photographs and personal stories offering a rare, visceral insight into the world of deafness and hearing loss. Earshot is on sale from 1 March, coinciding with World Hearing Day, 3 March and Hearing Awareness Week, 3 – 9 March.
Earshot presents intimate personal portrayals using photography and storytelling, delving into the world of deafness, bringing to light a myriad of experiences and issues surrounding the complexities of hearing loss.
Author Kate Disher-Quill was diagnosed with hearing loss when she was three and was fitted with hearing aids when she was 10. Her special needs teacher made her feel she would never be as smart as her peers, so she put up a wall and refused to open up about how distressing it was for her. It wasn’t until the age of 26, when Kate read an article in Frankie Magazine by a 27-year-old deaf photographer – talking about the awkwardness of missing the punchline of jokes, the embarrassments and frustrations of all the everyday situations and how imagery became a huge part of her life – that she was reminded of her own frustrations and, for once, realised she wasn’t alone. She knew the article would change her life and set about using her photography and storytelling to do the same for others.
Kate explains: “I have had the honour of meeting, photographing and sharing experiences with the incredible people whose stories fill these pages. Their stories reveal the heartbreak, the joy, the struggles, the achievements, and the complexity of deafness. In sharing stories, this book aims to break down the barriers of ‘us’ and ‘them’. To build understanding and compassion.”
Some of the stories include the likes of Melbourne photographer Kristoffer Paulsen (pictured left), who has moderate to severe hearing loss. Kristoffer had a bicycle accident when he was just four, and a few months later his mum noticed a hearing loss. “I had burst the walls between my middle and inner ears and have worn hearing aids ever since. A specialist gave me an FM system in grade four but I ended up feeling like a science experiment and felt isolated. It wasn’t until adulthood that I felt there’s a lot to be grateful for, I’m in touch with my creative senses and often wonder whether my hearing loss has influenced that.”
24-year-old profoundly deaf interior designer Rosie Gallen had her first cochlear implant at age 11: “My deafness has been a barrier but I’ve worked hard to overcome it. The ocean is my nirvana – it’s my release and my place where I can escape for a moment.”
Shadrach Sales – Graham is an 18-year-old deaf videographer: “My sign name is the placement of a fist across the chest onto your heart, I came up with it when I was 14, it’s an Indigenous sign and represents support, courage and respect.” Shadrach has worked with Deaf Services Queensland, as well as an Auslan book for children to help encourage them to learn. “I feel incredibly proud to have worked on the project; many deaf aboriginal children living in remote communities have little exposure to language and this book was designed to give them more access and knowledge of Auslan.”
Earshot brings to light the 3.6 million people affected by hearing loss in Australia, and how up to 80-90% of people in Indigenous communities are affected by hearing loss. By bringing together the heartfelt stories and photographs of a diverse range of Australian’s living with deafness and hearing loss, Kate aims to encourage people to accept their differences earlier in life and show that diversity enriches our society and is something to be celebrated.
Kate will be speaking on a panel for the NGV Artbook Fair on 15-17 March where she will share stories from Earshot.