Categorized | Life

Blind Photographer Learns to Live Her Dream

Posted on 20 February 2009

Traci Parks had a typical dilemma. She went to college to pursue her ideal profession, but eventually realized that she wanted to do something else. In her case, that ‘something else’ was photography. Which is not so typical, because Parks is legally blind. In fact, she knew about her degenerative myopia even before making the career switch.

Thanks to advanced technology and her own determination, Parks not only trained and successfully acquired professional photography credentials, she now runs a thriving photography business–Miracle Images in Columbus, Ohio. “If the picture is in focus,” says Parks, explaining the name of her company, “it’s a miracle.” She is kidding, of course, but it helps to have a sense of humor when you face so many obstacles.

Developing the Picture
Parks grew up 20 miles north of Cincinnati and earned a BA in communications management from the University of Dayton. She worked as a PR executive for a Catholic high school, but felt like something was missing.

Happiness is a choice. It doesn’t just happen. You have to create it by taking risks.

“I didn’t like being at a 9-to-5 or, in this case, a 7-to-3 job,” Parks says. “I wanted something more fulfilling and creative. I thought I would love PR, because I always enjoyed writing. I liked dealing with the public. But you never know until you end up with a job whether you’re going to like it or not. I discovered that I didn’t.”

She went out and bought her first camera, a manual Canon model, and started taking landscape shots of waterfalls and roses at Mt. Airy Forest in Cincinnati. Already in her mid-20s, Parks convinced the Ohio Institute of Photography and Technology in Dayton to take a chance on her. Her visual impairment had remained fairly stable since her birth and she learned how to handle it. Still, there was always the danger of the condition getting worse.

“It was scary,” Parks says. “My parents were concerned whether this was a realistic career to pursue. But they never said I couldn’t do it. The school was very worried about me spending a lot of money and not making it. We agreed that I would try it out for a quarter full-time. Though I had limitations,” she adds, “I made it.”

She graduated in December 1994. But just three months after completing the, she suffered an optical hemorrhage. There was a big black hole in the middle of her visual field. Today, she wears contact lenses to help correct her 20/400 vision. “I picked the most stressful career that I could,” she says, laughing. “But it’s what I wanted to do.”

Custom Framing
Obviously, Parks has had to make major adjustments. She uses an expensive, large-format, Sinar camera system that has magnifiers to help her see images. She has cultivated a niche in commercial, architectural photography–because it’s easier to shoot buildings than people.

Because her condition is degenerative, Parks realizes that it will likely get worse. To prepare for this, she’s developing another career as a motivational speaker. In fact, she’s competed successfully on the Toastmaster speaking circuit, doing well in local competitions. She hopes to compete in the World Championship of Public Speaking later this year.

Does she ever regret trading a safe–if somewhat unfulfilling–career for an impossible dream?

“Happiness is a choice,” Parks says. “It doesn’t just happen. You have to create it by taking risk. I didn’t know I could physically do what I wanted to do until I did it. I’m just glad I did.”

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