Most people discover their world gradually. We learn to talk and interact with the world long before memories consciously form. Who of us can remember the first time they heard their name spoken? Or remembers that first sense of belonging? Or with certainty, knowing that snow was “snow” (for example) and could express their excitement over seeing it? Alina can remember all of these things. She was seven years old when her discovery of the world began.
Alina, Ukrainian by birth, American by adoption, was born deaf as a result of Waardenburgs Syndrome. Orphaned at age three and presumed “mentally retarded,” she was labeled an outcast in Ukrainian culture. Non-verbal, and presumably unable to learn, she was given no hope for a future and left without any way to communicate and experience the world.
My family met Alina in her institutional home in Uzhgorod, Ukraine, in October 2014. I helped her change her clothes on the morning she was to begin her new life. I set her orphanage-issued, brown, toe-scuffed, shoes under a chair and slipped her small feet into a pair of shiny, new, white boots. All of the other children gathered in the foyer to say good-bye. Alina waved to them, blew a kiss, and walked out the door. A 37 pound, 4 ft. tall, deaf girl on her way to a new life; a life of hope and love; a life of sound and discovery of which she couldn’t possibly have dreamed.
Alina is both a depictive and expressive work, intended to inspire viewers as they travel the mountains and valleys of their own lives. This work, while depicting Alina’s personal journey from orphan to daughter and from silence to sound, is a greater representation of the resiliency hidden in the human spirit, and common to all mankind.
35mm format images have been printed at 16x24 inch size, on Hanemühle Photo Rag paper, using the Piezography ink system.