Indonesian Woman with No Forearms Pursues Photography Dream

Category: Society / Mar 06, 2012 10:49AM EDT

Rusidah Badawi has no forearms and no fingers but yet works as a photographer.The 44-year-old was forced to have her arms amputated below the elbow after an accident when she was just 12-years-old.

Although reluctant to discuss details of what happened, she says the amputation changed her life - and introduced her to a new passion.

Born into an ordinary family, Badawi graduated from senior high school in 1989 and went on to a vocational rehabilitation centre for the handicapped in Solo, where she took sewing and photography classes. Thanks to the courses, Badawi has since pursued her dream of becoming a photographer and regularly uses her skill in her local area.

The photographer admits that if she had not lost her forearms, her life may have been very different. She doubts whether she would have found her passion for photography. Badawi's husband Suradi says he hopes his wife can inspire other disabled people to not give up on living life to the full.I hope my wife's activities are an example and give motivation to others, who have the same condition as her, to not be pessimistic. We know that she has advantages and disadvantages, she can do what normal people do even though she does not have arms like able-bodied people, Suradi said.

Badawi's photography teacher lent her a camera - a Pentax K1000 - in 1995 and she modified the camera to suit her disability. She adapted the shutter button with a screw so photos can be taken more easily.

Until 2010, she mainly used traditional film to shoot her photos.The 44-year-old mother lives in Botorejo village, Purworejo district, with her husband, an ice cream seller, and the couple's only son. Every morning she helps 13-year-old Nugroho Eman Wibowo get ready for school before walking around her village looking for clients.

One of her customers, Parsono, said he enjoys supporting Badawi and her photography.I salute Rusidah. She can do this even though she is disabled and she is good, Parsono said during a photo session with his grandchild.

Badawi uses her services for wedding receptions, village carnivals and local events. The Pur-wor-ejo district office also uses her services for their documentation. She earns between IDR 200,000 (22 U.S. dollars) and IDR 400,000 (44 U.S. dollars) per month, charging IDR 6,000 (0.7 U.S. dollars) per picture.

Badawi hopes one day to be able get her own premises for her business.In 2004, then-Central Java Governor, Mardyanto, donated a Brown SR 200 camera to Badawi. More recently, photographic company Canon gave her a digital Canon EOS 550D with Canon Speedlite 430 E flash.

Badawi admits that her disability is challenging - it takes her five minutes to do something an able-bodied person could do in one minute, she says - but she has never given up pursuing her dream. Despite starting without any proper equipment, her business has grown and she is determined to keep pushing the limit to show what disabled people can accomplish.