Hey All,

For the last few weeks I’ve been working on a concept with fellow photographer, John Butterill, utilising Google plus’ hangout feature. I’ve found hangouts on Google plus to be quite productive and I’ve met and connected with some exceptional photographers from around the world using it.. but we wanted to take that one step further.. and the concept of having Virtual Photo Walks for the disabled was born.

One of the main participants is C. Corey Fisk, the last time she walked was 1992, she has MS, an incurable disease that affects the central nervous system. She has been bed ridden for more than 4 years now, only leaving the house every few weeks to visit the hospital.. in an ambulance. Then there is M Monica, she is fully disabled. She lives with systemic lupus, fibromyalgia, neurocardiogenic syncopy, partial blindness, and Raynauld’s disease. She has to use a wheelchair so that she doesn’t pass out when walking because of the syncopy. This does not interfere with her enjoyment of life. There are many other participants and it is growing rapidly, we’re currently looking for some Australian participants as well!

I wanted to get involved as soon as I heard about the concept for many reasons.. number one I just love helping people and sharing my photography, but I also was in hospital for an extended amount of time and was facing the possibility of life confined to a wheelchair! In 2002 I broke my back in 2 places, L1 and T12, I was stuck in hospital watching the ceiling, re-runs of Water Rats (an Australian water police drama that is very.. average) and other soapies during the day. All up I was in hospital and then rehab/physio for 9 months.. it took me a long time to learn how to walk again and even longer to walk confidently without losing balance and falling over. For the first couple of days of my stay in hosptial, I was told that I would never walk again. I’ve now mostly recovered aside from some nerve damage and some balance issues at times.

So this morning I headed down to Bennion Beach at 5:30am, getting there well before the sky started to lighten up. I plugged in my headset and joined the hangout that John setup with Corey and Monica already in there, along with a few other participants. I gave them a guided tour and we watched the moon set over the ocean while they directed me on where to take photos. It was quite an emotional experience not only for Corey and Monica, but also for myself, as I wandered around listening to them talk about how they miss the sound of waves crashing and that they had never thought they would ever get a chance to visit a beach in Australia.

Here are some of the images from this morning’s walk.

Print avilable here

 Print available here

Here is the video.. it doesn’t quite capture the actual experience, but it gives an idea of what went on:

Here is what Summer Plum wrote after the hangout:
“This afternoon, thanks to +Paul Pichugin & +Virtual Photo Walks™, I got to watch the sunrise in Perth as the moon set and hear the waves of the Indian Ocean lap against the rocks from my bed despite an awful migraine that is just not leaving me alone. (Hello day 35.) Folks, we live in the future! This time I just cried on the hangout, instead of after. because, yeah, well. It was amazing. If any of my fellow sickies want to come along in the future, raise a hand, and I’ll make sure you get advanced notice for future walks.  This was just wonderful. I am so deeply grateful.”

This is why I do what I do.. to help others, I have been so fortunate in my life, this is just me giving back :)


Paul Pichugin