Suffers Usher syndrome (type 2), a condition that has caused her sight and hearing to deteriorate, year after year, since she was a teenager.
Like something of a modern-day Monet, Australia’s Lara Miller is capturing the world as it disappears before her eyes. The globetrotting photographer – and “accidental” Instagram sensation – suffers Usher syndrome (type 2), a condition that has caused her sight and hearing to deteriorate, year after year, since she was a teenager.
Now in her mid-thirties, freshly returned from sunsets over the snow-capped peaks of New Zealand, she’s in no mood to stop and settle, having already long extended what was meant to be a six-month sabbatical, which started last September when she and husband Dave rented out their inner-city apartment and set off across Europe and the UK, snapping all the way.
“When we travel, we’re both standing in the same place taking completely different photographs,” Lara says, her camera close to hand. “We both stood at the same place on the Amalfi Coast, and he’s seeing a massive landscape, and I’m seeing a tunnel-vision moment… That’s what I have. I have the ability to see a smaller moment or detail or element of that scene that someone else hasn’t seen.”
Having hesitantly made her Instagram account, Love Walk Eat See, public just over a year ago, the world can now share in these delicious particulars – a crate of golden pears in London’s Borough Market, tightly-clasped cockles from a Thai street-food stall, a front yard strewn with teapots in Owaka, a tiny New Zealand town, and chocolate-dusted cappuccinos, pretty much everywhere.
“I’m not the best photographer in the world. I’m not formally trained. I’m just doing it because I love it, and it also helps me to see the world and show my perspective to other people. For me it’s about enjoying all the little things rather than focusing on what I don’t see or I don’t hear and trying to just take in the small joys along the way.” Born partially deaf (she’s worn hearing aids since she was two) and noticing that her sight was giving her trouble at 18, this mentality has guided her journey. “I realised that I was struggling a lot more than everybody else in the dark,” she says, explaining that this is generally the first symptom sufferers of Usher syndrome notice.
“I think the first thing was acceptance, and that was just naturally within me. Maybe because I grew up with my hearing loss, I was more prepared to deal with a second disability. My mum didn’t bring me up to feel sorry for myself… [She] used to say when I was a kid, ‘You’re only given the things you’re strong enough to handle.’ It’s no one’s fault, it’s not a curse, it’s just happened. And in all honesty I can say there are amazing gifts that have come from this, as well.”
“Because I am so focused on celebrating what I can see, I almost forget that I really don’t see much at all,” she says. “So those moments hit hard, but not very often, and not very long. I work extra hard to cope with both my hearing and my vision. I work so hard that some people go, “Really? How are you as blind as you say you are?”
“Yes, of course there are moments where I ask myself, how will I do what I do now? But there are things I’m doing now that I would never have thought I would do even a year or two years ago. So each phase of deterioration is followed by a phase of grief, but then coming out and finding a new way to cope and thrive with that.”
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