Friday, October 05, 2007

King Gimp

"Towson University graduate student Dan Keplinger gazes at one of his painting in his studio in the Center for Arts where he creates various pieces of artwork. Keplinger, who developed Cerebral Palsy at birth, was featured in the Academy Award winning documentary "King Gimp" and will be showcasing his MFA thesis "In Whose Words?" in the CFA Holtzman gallery through Oct.27."

Wednesday morning I shot a portrait of a very interesting person. My subject being Dan Keplinger otherwise known as "King Gimp."

Featured in the HBO Academy Award winning documentary "King Gimp" at birth Keplinger was mistook for dead and placed aside. He went over a minute without Oxygen, but Keplinger miraculously managed to revive himself. However, as a result of the lack of air to his brain, he developed Cerebral Palsy.

Holding two previous majors from Towson University with a perfect GPA, Kelpinger is making his final stint at Towson with a showcase of his MFA thesis artwork.

I won't lie, I was nervous about meeting Keplinger. Maybe it was because I haven't been around many disabled people in the past, but I learned quickly he is no different than anyone else.

Sure, he was born with a disability that has left his arms failing around, feet stomping the ground, and face uncontrollably contorting. But that doesn't make him different from myself, it hasn't changed who he is or stopped him from pursing his love of art.

After spending 30 minutes shooting and engaging with Keplinger, I came to realize I envy him.

Simply put, he is inspiring.

Think deep. Think really hard. How often do we complain about things not being fair or perfectly right? Whether it's something small such as getting off work late or not finding a parking spot.

Keplinger wasn't given a normal body, but mentally is smarter than one may perceive him. Yet the work he creates, in the manner which he produces it makes you appreciate day to day activities that we normally take for granted.

After scrolling his website, I found a quote by him:

"The minute my headstick goes on, I don't hear other people in the room, everything is filtered out, creating a state of purity possible only through art."

Reminds me of myself. When I am shooting photos, more often than not I find myself losing track of what's going on around me... which isn't always a good thing in journalism. But it's the artistic side of me coming out: pure right brain dominance.

Moving on, I shot Keplinger during an interview with Arts editor, Alex. We originally planned to shoot in the gallery where his show would be, but we changed locations to where he creates his artwork. I am glad we did.

The bright, vibrant colors in his art helped tell his story. Nothing he creates is bland, and I feel as if the bright colors show his determination to continue his sucess.

The thing that I kept seeing though, was him looking at his work during the interview. I could tell by his quotes and actions that he is really passionate about art and expressing himself through his paintings, sculptures and other types of medium work. I am just glad I could capture that in the above image.

If you haven't seen his documentary, I highly suggest watching it. It truly is inspiring.

Also, speaking of inspiring: This documentary entitled "Kingsley's Crossing" is a great piece of photojournalism work. An oldie, but goodie, it makes me want to go shoot photos immediately following the end of the story each and every time.


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