Life without limits

Phoebe Tay
Edan Chapman is a photographer and filmmaker. He has Usher's Syndrome but does not allow his condition to limit him from achieving his dreams. His life story so far is nothing short of inspiring.
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Phoebe Tay on 20/06/2013
A black and white photo of the artist

Edan Chapman is a photographer and film maker with Usher's Syndrome.

Strengths and weaknesses

Everyone is born with their own set of strengths and weaknesses. Despite this, or perhaps because of it, each individual has something worthwhile to offer the world by developing their talents and adopting a 'life without limits' mentality. Edan Chapman is such a person; an intelligent man with a larger than life personality. He uses the limitations of Usher's Syndrome to his advantage, which makes him a uniquely successful photographer and film-maker.

Usher's syndrome is a condition that causes deaf-blindness and consists of multiple symptoms including night blindness, Retinitis Pigmentosa, which is gradual loss of peripheral vision eventually leading to total blindness, and deafness. Without the right support, people with Usher's Syndrome can experience social isolation, depression, anxiety and low self-esteem. Some Deaf-blind people adapt well to the Deaf or hearing communities, whilst others do not. Edan is a well-adjusted individual who has demonstrated resilience despite his condition. He does not allow his condition to hinder him from realising his dreams and achieving his full potential.

A full and exciting life

Edan is leading a full life. He has lived in different countries including New Zealand and Germany, and over the years has made many friends and studied different courses. All his varied experiences have helped him learn how to be a people person and enabled him to fit in anywhere. Edan credits his mum, Susan Chapman, for his success.

At 13 years of age, Edan was diagnosed with Usher's syndrome. His world came crashing down when he realised it was just a matter of time before he would go blind. For 3 years Edan wanted to take his own life, indulging in drugs, smoking and alcohol to escape the pain of an uncertain future.

When he was 20, Edan's uncle gave him his old digital camera. Edan remembers it as one of the best cameras he has ever seen or used. Each camera has its own personality. That camera was beautiful. It just did the picture perfectly. For the next 5 years, he took many shots of his friends and things in the environment, especially flowers. Eventually, he fell in love with photography. A few years later, Edan set up a photography website and sold a few photos, one of them for a book cover. He realised then that he could go further with photography and so he did some research and saved up enough money to buy a Canon DSLR camera. It was at that moment that he became a professional photographer.

To be a photographer, one must have a keen eye for detail. You might, therefore, wonder how Edan manages to take good photographs. Edan points out that he could see as much as a camera could capture and that using a camera is really just a perfect extension of his situation. The camera has taught him to use his vision properly and to develop an eye for often overlooked details such as light and colour. He has also developed a greater appreciation for what he can see round him. The camera and I teach each other, he says. It's a relationship.

Moving to Melbourne

When he moved to Melbourne, Edan began working at the Victorian College For the Deaf (VCD) as a film teacher and teacher aide. Jeremy Brett, a leading teacher at the school said, We have the utmost respect for each other. He assisted me with a huge film editing task with footage I shot in Kimberleys in the Aboriginal community with Deaf students. I owe him big for that. Edan's life has impacted on him positively. Edan is an inspiration. Despite his degenerative Ushers, he has mastered the English language which is rare for a Deaf person. He follows his passion, which is film and photography, and nothing will get in his way. He has to be admired for that. Also the quality of his work is outstanding, very professional. His ongoing positive encouraging mindset is very inspiring! Edan decided to leave his job at VCD last year as his heart is set on achieving some other things before he loses his sight completely.

In the future, Edan hopes to have a photography exhibition of his works, following on from winning 1st Place in the NSW North Coast TAFE Photographic contest in 2010. He also wants to explore different things that he can envision himself doing, like massage and pottery. He has become involved in the Deaf-blind community and has learned Braille so he won't have to stop reading books. While it will hurt to give up TV series, I cannot give up my love for reading. I will go crazy, he says. He has loved books from the age of 3 and has dreams of writing a book about his life. Edan hopes that his story will inspire other people with Ushers to achieve something extraordinary with their lives.

His motto: Never Give up.

To see Edan's work, visit his website at

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