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16 October 2014

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Looking Beyond My Lens

By Gareth Ioan Davies
July 2005, Cardiff
A digital story from Dimension 10

"Yeah, it was the summer of '97. Mencap offered me an assignment to photograph a group of adults with learning difficulties on holiday in Torquay.

During the coach journey, my head was full of doubts and fears. I thought they were weird, confusing, disruptive people. Am I strong enough to spend a week in their company? Would I have the patience?

During the mornings we sat by the poolside, the air charged with excitement for the day ahead, drinking gallons of stewed tea with burps and laughter.

Afternoon zig-zagging in pairs down the cobbled streets of Torquay, invading local craft shops like a herd of wild bulls. Stopping at every tea house, caff or pub, with the group leader shouting, "No, that's it, no more tea!"

Fancy dress parties at night. Hey Gareth, what do you think of my dress? Hey look at my hat. God, I was having fun. Even though I was surrounded by frenzied behaviour and I was constantly being challenged by the lack of inhibitions, I was beginning to realise I was part of something unique.

Come on Gareth, jump in the pool with us. Come on Gareth, sing a song with us. At every corner faces beamed with broad smiles and dirty laughter.

By the end of the week, my fears had changed dramatically. I had learnt this, that the words compassion, warmth, loyalty, affection and laughter are to be lived. And that's OK with me."

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