By Guest Blogger Zaakirah Muhammad, Photographer
I was born in Fort Lauderdale, Florida on December 20th, almost four weeks prematurely. At nine-months-old, I was diagnosed with retinoblastoma; a rare children’s eye cancer where a tumor develops in the retina. Shortly after, my right eye was surgically removed. Since then I have worn a prosthetic eye. As a result of radiation, I experienced hearing loss, which is still declining to this day, so I also wear hearing aids in both ears.
For the longest time, I limited myself. I never put much emphasis on the word “survivor,” nor truly understood it. It took a really long time to connect the dots—that survivor is actually a positive thing. I made it through something really difficult. Most children with retinoblastoma rarely lived to be a year old. Any light that shone was upon the negatives—my vision and hearing disabilities, which could lead to other disabilities and eventually death. It took time for me to realize that there is so much more to life than focusing on just that side of things.
I was always a quiet child and an introvert, but I have a voice that I have found and used through my photography. At six-years-old, I was given my first camera—a Kodak Polaroid. From there on, nothing could stop me from photographing everyone, everything and every place I went. With a camera, I could allow those in my life and around the world to see life and humanity as I do through my monocular vision.
As a youth, I started with travel and landscape photography, then capturing candid moments of close friends and family. By middle school, I considered going to school for psychology, social work or something similar because of my ability to be a good listener and a good friend to those in need. And I enjoyed helping.