The Merthyr Tydfil twins prepare to display their photographic work at Llandough Hospital.
Rhodri and Lewys Watkins, 20, live with Duchenne muscular dystrophy, sometimes abbreviated as DMD or simply Duchenne. It is a rare genetic disease that mainly affects men and weakens and damages the muscles of the body over time, and eventually is fatal.
They said: “We are really delighted to have our work shared in this way, as it raises awareness of the difficulties that people living with disabilities face on a daily basis.
The photographs, which were taken in public spaces and in nature, depict the challenges faced by people living with disabilities, and will be exhibited from January to April 2023.
For example, a photograph by Lewys titled “Trying to Climb the World” is an image of the bottom of an escalator in the city center, with a person standing on a step at the top. Lewys said, “I wanted to capture this from a low angle and emphasize how imposing it can look. The person on top is symbolic of the average person who does not have to deal with these barriers, and how society can neglect access for wheelchair users like below them.
A photograph by Rhodri titled “My Head is Spinning” depicts a revolving door at the library. Rhodri explained, “As an avid reader, this is a place I wish I could visit. The revolving door is a beautiful piece of architecture, but also a barrier to my access. I took a photo of the door statically followed by a number as it rotated. I mixed them to give a sense of movement and desaturated them to give it a ghostly look.
The guys recently completed a foundation degree in photography at Merthyr Tydfil College, a campus of the University of South Wales, and will exhibit photographs of their work, titled ‘Unexplored’ at the hospital, which is part of Cardiff and of the Vale Health Board.
“Living with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy is a constant struggle as we depend on family and caregivers 24 hours a day. Life is a constant challenge.
“Duchenne muscular dystrophy definitely impacts our ability to take pictures, but with today’s technology and the help of a learning coach (who is also a photography enthusiast), we have managed to complete the 2-year course.”
Rachel Salmon, Neuromuscular Family Care Advisor, South East Wales, supports the twins. She contacted the gallery and the media department of Cardiff and the Vale Health Board to find out if they would be exhibiting the boys’ work. She said, “It’s such exciting and powerful work and something that I think needs to be showcased.”
Charles Horton, Regional Development Manager for Wales, South West and West Midlands at Muscular Dystrophy UK, a charity that supports people living with Duchenne and other muscular dystrophies, said: “It’s so great that Rhodri and Lewys have finished their photography course and will get a chance to show their work to the world. Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy is an incredibly rare and difficult condition to live with, so it’s great for guys to use their photography skills to not only be creative, but also to raise awareness.