"The best thing about doing these shoots is getting there. Me and Em have to work together to get up or down into some places. Sometimes I forget, and go a little quick or too slowly on an incline, but I've found a good balance and can anticipate where might be more tricky with a prosthesis. Honestly, I just end up finding the easiest path for myself as well." - Ollie, for “In my Shoes” project
Let’s go back three years. I am meeting Emery for the first time. Before she arrives, someone mentions that she’s an amputee, and studying fine arts. We’re at the university’s start of year celebrations. I’m on a high stool by the bar, and most of our friends are standing. I go fetch a chair from behind the bar when we’ve been introduced. I remember she didn’t sit for a long while, my stool sitting there empty and me nervous that someone else may take it.
I remember going for walks with Em and I remember trying to catalogue in my mind where the accessible ramps were on campus, only to find that she usually didn’t use them while we walked. I remember finally dropping my hyper-caution.
I remember a time that I grabbed Em and started running. I discovered that her prosthesis didn’t lend itself to stops and starts, and she wasn’t quite comfortable jogging with it. I remember finding that sweet spot- the exact balance where we could link arms and go down the big hill to the beach without trouble.
At a certain point, Em started using some of the ramps, let me give her chairs, let me hold her hand if it was slick outside. This only happened after I stopped being apprehensive on her behalf. Slowly, she revealed that when I swerve around as I talk I’m cutting her off; that talking and walking wasn’t a given and took concentration; that I really, really needed to stop walking along the curb instead of stepping directly over it.
I gained a new appreciation for Em’s ability to time her steps so that she easily clears the curb without breaking rhythm. I’ve stopped trying to be her radar and know that instead, she’ll warn me of the storm drains, roots and ledges.
The biggest change has been normalizing her amputation, getting back to a place where I realize that Emery is autonomous, independent, definitely does not need any help from me most of the time. When the occasion does arise, the only reason that I’m of any use is that I’m accustomed to exactly how Emery walks.