Technology can’t help Grant Kitchen walk again, but it is helping him chase a love of photography.
From the click of a button on his phone, the 62-year-old is able to capture sunsets, seascapes and a butterfly as it hovers above a thistle in the paddock.
Now he’s bravely preparing for his first public exhibition.
At the age of 44, the Crookwell resident was involved in a workplace accident that caused quadriplegia.
“I was working at Nicholson Farm Machinery as a mechanic,” says Grant. “I’d been there for ages; I was close to my long service. Another fella was working on a truck with a tilted cab. I didn’t have much work booked in that day so I gave him a hand.
“I was sat underneath it and for some reason the cab came down and pinned my head to the ground. I knew straight away that my neck was broken. My body went all jellylike, sort of like if you had a balloon full of water and punctured a hole in it.”
Grant was flown to the Prince of Wales Hospital in Sydney for extensive surgery, including the implantation of three metal plates in his neck. However, damage to his C4 and C5 vertebrae, in his neck, meant he’d never walk again.
Today, he has no feeling from his chest down and has limited movement in his arms and hands.
“I’ve got no finger movement so I can’t pick up anything, but I can use this finger on my left hand to use a mobile phone and I can use the camera’s touchscreen by wearing a special glove with a stylus,” says Grant.
‘Beyond My Wheels’ is the name of Grant’s first public exhibition at Crookwell Memorial Hall from 26-28 March. The affectionate name represents how Grant’s view of the world has changed since his injury.
“You see things totally different in a wheelchair,” he says. “I can sit and wait for an ant to crawl out of a log or a butterfly to sit on a particular flower. And it’s something I like doing. I can get out.”
Grant was already married to Gail and they had twins at the local public school at the time of his injury.
She is now Grant’s carer and helps to set up his camera, a Canon EOS 80D, for him to control from his phone.
“I work it through a remote shutter button,” says Grant. “It’s also got a pan/tilt that works from another joystick.”
He has always been a glass-half-full kind of bloke, but says his family and his photography have kept him out of depression.
“I remember a fella who worked in the rehab section at Prince of Wales Hospital asked if I was getting a nurse and I said, ‘No, Gail will do it,'” says Grant. “He told me he didn’t think our relationship would last, but I told him, ‘We’re country people, we’ll be alright.'”
Placing his photography work on exhibition is a nerve-wracking thought, but Grant is determined to challenge himself.
“I haven’t done anything like this before,” he says. “It was my case manager who asked where I wanted to be in 12 months and I said I wouldn’t mind showing my photos. She asked to look at them and said, ‘They’re too good to just sit somewhere or stay on the computer.'”
Grant also thinks a few of the locals will be surprised to discover his hidden talent.
“Everyone who knows me says, ‘This isn’t you, it’s something out of the ordinary,'” he says.
Grant’s photographs will be for sale at the exhibition, however he says the real achievement will be putting himself out there.
‘Beyond My Wheels – A Photography Exhibition by Grant Kitchen’ will be held at the Crookwell Memorial Hall on Friday, 26 March, from 6 pm to 8 pm; Saturday, 27 March, from 10 am to 4 pm; and Sunday, 28 March, from 10 am to 2 pm.