Adilzhan is no longer attending ARDI, but he keeps in close contact with some of the staff and disabled people who do attend the centre. He told me he left the centre since he wanted to develop himself more, and didn’t see much possibility of that happening at ARDI, though he says it did open up his horizons. Now he is working at a local workshop making handcrafts. Having explained the project to him and his mother, Shamshynur, they agreed to participate and are willing to speak about their experience. He lives with both his parents and his sister in a suburb, but he is very self-sufficient and able to arrange meetings and activities by himself. I want to focus on this aspect of his personality. He is Uighur, which is an ethnic minority in Kazakhstan, but I’m not sure at this point if that has any significance.
We agreed that the images would focus on Adilzhan at work and at home. First of all he has to agree with his boss and the other employees (all of whom are disabled) that we are allowed to shoot film and photo in the workshop. The other areas of his life that he wants to show me involve his friends (he wants to show not only that he has a social life, but also that his friends include able-bodied people), his sporting activities (he regularly exercises and takes part in break-dance performances on a regular basis) as well as some of the craft activities he’s involved in (apart from making appliqué pictures, he also moulds soap for selling at craft fairs). I also asked him to show me some old family photos, but it seems these may be difficult to locate.
Adilzhan is very lively and sociable with a keen sense of humour, and this is also something I want to get across in the images. He has CP and is unable to use his legs, but I have still to interview his mother to understand the cause of his impairments.
After a promising start, Adilzhan has been putting me off since October with various excuses. When I pointed out to him that it is almost half a year since we met he was quite put out and told me not to lose faith, that we’d definitely meet that weekend. When I called to make arrangements on Friday evening, he told me to call him the following morning, which I did but there was no answer. I called again on Sunday, but he told me he wasn’t able to talk. That for me was the final straw, and I have not attempted to contact him again. “Life’s too short,” as Nicholas Nixon said! I was actually losing sleep over the fact that I couldn’t pin Adilzhan down. I have decided to look elsewhere.