Make sense with Nolan Ryan Trowe

Four years ago, when US photographer Nolan Ryan Trowe was 23, he suffered a spinal cord injury while cliff jumping on the Yuba River in Northern California. After the accident, he was mostly paralyzed from the waist down, and now he's switching between wheelchair use and walking with two canes after regaining some exercise.

Photography has always been a part of Trowe's life and he got his first point-and-shoot camera at the age of 15. “I took it everywhere because it could just fit in my pocket. I've shot everything – my friends, my family, skateboarding, sunsets. I used it like a visual diary, ”says Trowe CR.

After his injury, he stopped taking photos for a while, but when he was attending graduate school in New York, he decided to use his student loan to buy a camera. Again Trowe started taking photos of his life and friends, but this time it felt different. “I was more critical of my life and of the people I was with,” explains Trowe.

“It was different because I was disabled and so were all of my friends. I was in that community and while doing what I usually did with my photography, people were telling me it was important that people don't normally see these types of pictures. "

Above: Self-Portrait at the West 4th Street Courts in New York City, 2020; Above: Self-Portrait, 2020. All images © Nolan Ryan Trowe / VII Mentor Program

Trowe's view of the world had changed and his photography was beginning to reflect this. The photographer's sharp images work predominantly in black and white and often capture intimate moments in everyday life. One of his first projects after his injury, Revelations in a Wheelchair, was published in the New York Times in 2018.

Trowe took photos that showed people what New York looked like in a wheelchair. On the streets of the city, he experienced both kindness and cruelty from strangers with little middle ground, and he also realized how inaccessible New York City really is. "My experience has awakened me to the fact that rights for people with disabilities are way below where they should be," he told the New York Times at the time. "It has given me a new perspective and a new appreciation for the many people with disabilities who have to struggle to lead their daily lives in a world that has not taken the steps to do them justice."