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, 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.”
Here’s what this wanderlusting creative had to say…
On her craft
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.
On her diagnosis
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.
I just kind of went, hang on, I’m not fitting into this mould. I need to step back and reassess. I came from that type-A personality of being very driven by the external accolades, and they alone determined my self-esteem… [so] I started to just pull back and say, okay, I need to build that definition of success and self-esteem from within.
On the tough times
I say to myself, you’re actually allowed this day. By being nice to myself and kind to myself, it makes that day almost – I don’t want to sound cliché – but it makes it almost like a gift to myself. You’re allowed to feel down and you have permission to feel flat today, and when you’re ready to bounce out of it you will. It’s something we all need to do because the world is so hectic now, and I feel lucky that I’ve had something at a young age that has taught me that I need to do that, rather than burning out later on.
On the future
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.
Find the full story in Issue 29 of Collective Hub, on stands now.