Photos & Text by Antwan Thompson (instagram: antwanjthompson)
Photography wasn’t the norm for me to participate. Never thought it was for me to have a career, but the moment I had the camera in my hands I felt alive, as I was possessed. Throughout the school year, I had slowly evolved into photographer but I didn’t have a stamp or brand reflected of me. Until I went to Gallaudet University, from there; I was able to graduate into the level of thinking “ What does it mean to be a Deaf Artist”? To my surprise, I couldn’t discover any deaf artists in today’s world but one named Chuck Baird. I knew I had a responsibility to educate others because as I looked around on campus and I saw able-bodied men who have the look and the body to be a model, who could grace the cover of playgirl or other magazines.
In the world of Playgirl or People Magazine’s Sexiest Man Alive- have you ever seen a deaf male appear on the cover or have a spread in the any magazine? Why is that? Is it because the ideal of deaf or hard of hearing male isn’t considered sexy. As a photographer, I never assumed the responsible to educated other or present the problem. When I first asked one of my friends; I didn’t ask him because he was deaf. I asked him based on his look. He was my first model, his named was Gabriel, an art history major who was open-minded and agreed to pose for me. We went to the studio at the art department where everything felt pretty foreign to us. As he undressed peeling off layers like onions shedding its skin, I was setting up my camera. From that moment, I took the picture where everything is now fluid in silence. He posed alone without any direction from me or guidance on what to do next. He was in his own world each pose was like him dancing to music. How I handled the light to hone the shadows. I was into black and white photography inspired by Mapplethorpe.
Most of the models I have selected are either deaf or hard of hearing but I didn’t pick them because they are deaf. The fact they are deaf are somewhat helpful because of communication barriers. It would be easy to use ASL (American Sigh Language) to communicate with them so they are comfortable as they pose. But there are some models that are hearing, I don’t hide the fact that I am a hard of hearing person; I am a photographer that takes damn good pictures! All they see is a photographer. I’m silent as a panther.