On June 5th 2018 I became a different person mentally, spiritually, and physically. In other words, I was triggered, exhausted, and just plain defeated. All of these feelings came from being diagnose with Multiple Sclerosis (MS).
MS is an autoimmune disease that affects an individual’s brain (nervous system) and spine. Being struck with this kind of news lead me into a dark and depressing universe. The first thought that came to mind was “How are you still going to be a photographer and cope with this disease?” Many thoughts popped up with a mixture of confusion.
Before I was diagnosed with MS, photography became my passion, love, and sanity. Photography all started with a trip with my best friend to New York in 2014. Just being able to see New York in its true essence was an eye opener in terms of my creativity. New York became my canvas and the paint brush was my phone camera. Another canvas was Washington DC. Being around the area allowed me to work with other photographers/models and grow as a creative.
By August 2018, my disability took a heavy toll on me and the treatment I was on was ineffective. I came to a point where I refused to complete crazy tasks in my condition. Luckily, this all changed when I was scrolling down Instagram; it was like a light blub moment. I figured that I can continue with photography. My new journey started at that moment.
The first photo shoot I accomplished after being diagnosed with MS was when my siblings had to help in regards to my balance while shooting. To paint a better picture, my sister was assisting me by holding my legs and my brother was standing behind me holding my upper body. To the average bystander we all looked silly but it was very much worth it. After that shoot, I knew photography was here to stay evermore.
Early 2019, I took a leap of faith and moved to Los Angeles, California. The move was to continue my growth in photography and to start a new chapter. Being able to work with other creative individuals on the west coast brought a whole new perspective.
For example, I was able to execute a photo shoot on Will Rogers State Beach. At first, I was very nervous but once both of us were comfortable everything began to flow and go accordingly. My walker was deep in the sand and the currents were pretty high but the photos depicted strength.
Additionally, I find it truly fascinating on how others are still willing to work with me given my condition. It’s a beautiful feeling. Although MS is my disability it did not stop me from living my life and pursuing the love and passion I have for photography.
Special Thanks: I would love give a special thanks to Eugene Mertz, who is a great photographer, for inspiring me to get into photography. And a special thanks to Polly Irungu for her support and creating an amazing database for Black Women Photographers.
You can see more of Zaria’s work and keep up with her on Instagram.