Pete Paterson’s ‘Lifeactually’ exhibit on show at Museum of Dufferin

October 30, 2018   ·   0 Comments

By Constance Scrafield

Lifeactually is a photography exhibit by Pete Paterson, with the Opening Gala at the Museum of Dufferin, next Sunday, October 28.

It is of a very special nature: it is  a collection of pictures of people in the places where they are happiest or the most comfortable in their own skin. Could be any of us but these are people with varying levels of disabilities. They are all clients of Facilitation Wellington-Dufferin.

However, this is not an exhibition of the disadvantaged; this is a collection of photos of people finding their best place, where their disabilities are taken much less into account than their talent or their compatibility; where what they have in common with any other person is what matters.

“Pete took all the portraits – they’re short stories. They are taken in places that are meaningful to these people, in the places of their choosing. We are showcasing people doing the things that give their lives meaning- things that are important to this person are important to me too,” said Joanna Goode, executive director of Facilitation Wellington-Dufferin, in an interview over coffee. “One of my hopes is that it’s a way to spark conversation about what ‘s happening in these photos – that’s exactly what we’re wanting- to expand our view of people and see people for what they can do.”

The exhibit is a collaboration of FWD, the Museum of Dufferin (MoD) and Mr. Paterson.

Said Ms. Goode, “It’s been exciting to partner with the Museum, a committee telling the stories of people of Dufferin County, with Sarah Robertson and Nanci Malik – they’ve been terrific.

“This is people being able to define what’s meaningful to them instead of someone’s imposing that on them. There are stereotypes about people that are quite different from how people see themselves.”

Defining somewhat how FWD works, she outlined it: “All of our work starts with our getting to know people, then learning what’s important to them and what’s unique about them. A big part of our work is about helping people see what’s their best part of their lives.”

She said, “We have to be really good at asking questions, knowing the answer might not come back. It’s about pacing, settling down to this idea of waiting for them. That’s why we settle to taking time.”

The  pivotal point: “When you’re only used to the minimal for your life, when you’re told that you do have options, then, that portion of your life gets bigger. The focus is on each person taking more ownership and leadership in their own lives.”

As things move forward with this new idea of having options, talent, enthusiasm and new interests emerge and an enriched life can begin. This is what Lifeactually is teaching with Pete Paterson’s photographs.

In a telephone interview with him, he told us, “Joanna [Goode] and Jodee [Jack] wanted to photograph and have people write their own stories and make a book of it. One of them talked to a person who was a writer.”

He talked about the photos at the exhibition. “All in all, we’ve done 40. [Each photoshoot] would be lined up. Jody and I would go to their place – wherever they chose. The joy in these photographs came back to me. We went to photograph one person with her horse at Teen Ranch.”

He explained, “Each one has this wonderful connection to who they are and what they do. Facilitation people are just wonderful. They achieve so much and then, politicians come along and cut funding. I’m all for incremental taxation. A free enterprise socialist. Please help each other.”

He said, “What we need is a writer who will keep their story in the first person – in their own words. Not just a rewrite of what they said.”   

Ms. Goode also told us, “As facilitators, we have to be clear about: what are our values. How can we be of service to the family; how can we encourage people to find their own voice? One thing that seems important to me is how other people see us and how we see ourselves in a meaningful way.”

She made the point, “Sparking some curiosity about the things we have in common matters. Opportunities and responsibilities that come with citizenship aren’t afforded to everyone.”

She was clear about individual potential: “We have a narrow picture in our heads what communication looks like and the result is we miss out on a lot of interaction. Our program can’t be for 10 people at once. It’s about you as an individual. Our challenge is to expand. Our contributions don’t only come in one shape or form. There’s not just one way to be part of the community.”

“This exhibit is important. There is such a joy in the photos,” said Pete Paterson.

Lifeactually opens this Sunday, October 28 and runs until December 23 at the Museum of Dufferin on Airport Road at Highway 89. The opening begins at 2:00 p.m.

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