1 Year from a crazy idea to reality

HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME

1 year ago on the 20th Jan 2023, I went to a mini-conference. After Gemma Stevenson talked about how the media does not have enough “Air Time or print space” to showcase Disabled Sports, but we do have enough air time as we Have Twitter, Instagram, Tiktok, YouTube and a whole barrage of other outlets for stills, movies and write-ups about disability sports.

At that point, it was 10 minutes to lunch and I had a wild idea of setting up

The Disability Sports Network

My mind was racing, I had tons of ideas and still do – (more of that later) So I quickly looked up if the domain name was available it was, now I was getting excited and as we broke for lunch I rechecked the spelling and yes it was correct so refreshed the page and purchased the domain name there and then, I quickly received the confirmation email that the purchase had gone through. I had a stupid grin on my face as I knew something amazing was going to happen, not sure what as I only had the domain name, but that evening I went through and got all the extras eg Instagram, Twitter, TikTok etc a whole list was written down around midnight I stopped as I got them all, registered them including an email address. WOW, what a day.

So what happened next I purchased some webspace and started to build a website with stock images as I had not taken any disabled photographs yet. 7 days later and only using stock images on social media, Instagram and my website I introduced the world to The Disability Sports Network.com world. I instantly got 30 visitors the first day and every day for the next two months or so, The day after the launch I photographed my first Wheelchair game at the sports Dock UEL London, I had never see a game let alone photographed it. However, I came away with some reasonable and 2 outstanding images I was happy.

As I was frantically looking for things to photograph I found another disabled wheelchair event on the other side of London, the venue to me had a weird surface and I did not get what I was hoping for. I slowly started to make in roads to various other events and then game March, where I had an opportunity to have a stand at the Disability Expo, now doing things online is good to a point, however, I as many of you know I love to show and tell my good work to you, initially on business cards and if I attended the show I could meet everyone who might need a photographer in the disabled world – Note to self it’s everyone in this world.

When I signed the contract for a 2 x 1m stand I had a vague idea to where the money was coming from, so I signed up on a wing and a prayer that everything would come into place. In the meantime other events came up and I photographed them and put together 2 banners for the stand, blew up some new photos to A3 along with a selection of my images at A4 with leaflets as well.

For me the stand at the disability show was so busy I was glad for some assistance from 2 photography students from The Photography Foundation, as it was non-stop all day, when I spoke to other stand holders they said their stands were slow and I said mine was opposite, however, these companies are established and are completing with several other similar companies, on the other hand, I had no competition and from what I saw of the images people have on their websites and brochures they look old and outdated where my new photographs were bright and breezy, a total contrast.

During my research, I found the International Blind Games and Invictus were on soon, so I sent off media applications to both and just in time I got accepted at both events. So it was 7 days of Blind Sports which was amazing seeing blind people play football, cricket, chess, Tenpin bowling etc, so many new things to photograph were amazing. I returned from the international blind games with photographs and various contacts I went to Germany for the Invictus games, this is where things we upped in the photography game. Just before the Internationa blind games I had some money to buy a new Nikon mirrorless camera Z50 and initially got the standard kit lenses. When using this I saw a much better quality image compared to my DSLR and loveing the 11 Frames per second over 6 frames per second of my old camera.

When I read through the Invictus information pack it said Nikon Europe would be there and you can borrow any lens you wish, mmm Would they lend a lens value of £1000 to me, do I need a deposit or other security, Nope just a copy of my press pass and my phone number and due to them slimming down the personnel on site to 1 instead of 2 as there were not many Nikon Z users there, they did a deal with me that I could borrow 2 lenses the 24-75 and the 70-180, total value just over £2300 I signed the waiver and borrowed them for 2 days.

The photos I got with them were amazing, so clear, in focus spot on even in low light thanks to their F2.8 aperture. I photographed a lot of wheelchair basketball and Rugby events with a few track events in the 2 days I had them. I did not want to give them back, but I must. It was an amazing experience with the lenses I needed for my disabled photography work.

Since then I have photographed Boccia, Showdown, Goalball and a few more wheelchair games.

My name is getting out there as I am getting enquiries in from people I have not even met, Yes I have sent out feelers emails to do some work and through some new networking events I have been to just before Christmas 2023 and this week, I will hopefully be photographing Deaf Golf, Deaf Archery, Deaf Basketball, working with 2 mobility companies exactly what I am not sure yet as details are being discussed as we speak now.

So from what was a whim, I have set up my business with some help from various people along the way into an almost fully functioning Disability photography company,. the website/domain name and email etc cost me £120 to try the idea out and all I can say it took a life of its own, everything fell into place at the right time, and money, and opportunities dropped in as well. It was meant to be.

I have had a lot of feedback online from people who have seen what I am doing and now tat I go to all events with some A4 prints (Ask me) and show them the quality of prints, I am slowly getting used to well-done and amazing photographs. One group said can we book you once I showed them the photos, no selling needed the photos did the work.

TO THE FUTURE

Whats next?

I want to take my photographs and put them into a magazine for disabled people who enjoy sporting activities, this is a big leap for me as I will need some sports photographers and journalists, social media, and magazine design as I cannot do it all on my own.

However, I do have criteria that all these people need to have a disability of some kind. Why do I hear you ask as this magazine is for disabled users we need to speak their language as it is different to standard English. This makes sense to me as say if an able body person reviewed a product for a disabled person they can use all aspects of it and would write it that way. However in real terms, the same product would be used a different way in a disabled world and hopefully it will enhance their world, and life if they use it in their everyday life.

Just like my photography, since I am disabled and have trouble walking or sitting in a single position for too long, I have seen my photography has changed to give the perspective of a disabled person. Is it that sitting in a different position to my normal sports, what am I concentrating on, the whole action, or do I zoom in a little more just to see faces and hands or their bodies? For now, I have a handful of images that are my favourites as I have been told by more than one person that they are powerful I will drop them at the bottom of this post.

So have I changed as a person, Yes I am learning more about my condition FND, know when to stop and go, or decline an event as it is too close to another and I need time to recharge my batteries. However FND does actually stop me in my tracks and midway through the international blind games, I woke up on a Wednesday and my whole body told me, Nope you are not getting up right now as it ached all over, so I was allowed to go to the toilet and get a drink and went back to bed at around 8.30 am and I slept to around 12.30 and this time when I got up I was OK the pain had subsided and I felt refreshed and could continue on.

The New Sports on the Horizon

Rock Climbing for the Disabled

Pickle Ball

Lots of Deaf Sports eg Golf, Basketball, Archery, Deaf Football etc

Possible Wheelchair Tennis

Blind Football

Other that have been suggested are various track events, badminton,

So if you know of a disabled sport that people are doing initially in the M25 then let me know, other places in the UK are subject to extra costs eg travel and accommodation, and we can work out a deal on this exactly.

OH Yes the website is being updated with some new features and layout very soon.

One final thing is I still want to do grassroots-level sports photography for free, so looking for sponsorship to help me photograph clubs get some amazing photography to take them to the next level whatever that is.

Please email me with details on how you could help me thanks

Michael

p.s. There will be a “Go Fund Me” set up in the next week where people can donate etc to help the cause

The Invictus Games 2023 Wheelchair Rugby
The Invictus Games 2023 Wheelchair Rugby
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