Photographer Kevin Connolly, who was born without legs, prefers to use a skateboard rather than a wheelchair.
A recent graduate of Montana State University, the charismatic 22 year old greeted me with a smile and a firm handshake when I arrived at the Smithsonian’s Discovery Theater Monday. He was there to speak about his first professional photography exhibition, "The Rolling Exhibition," currently on view at the Kennedy Center.
Kevin described the project in blunt terms: "A no-legged guy rolled around the world and got stared at." The genesis of his work is rooted in his passion for travel and his need for easy mobility. On a recent trip, Kevin shot thousands of pictures of the people who stared at him as he rolled by on his skateboard, snapping images in rapid succession from a camera at his hip, while he looked the other way.
Growing up in Helena, Montana, Kevin rarely used a wheelchair, preferring to walk on his hands. He’s tried gymnastics, wrestling and become an accomplished skier (on a specially designed monoski). It was while he was hitchhiking in New Zealand that he discovered the skateboard as a handy traveling vehicle (People wouldn’t pick up a guy in a wheelchair, he said). He continued his travels through Europe, shooting more conventional travel pictures for class photography projects.
But the concept for "The Rolling Exhibition" evolved from a single shot he took on a street in Vienna of a man looking down at him as he rolled by on the skateboard. He became fascinated by the stares, and after his return to the United States, started planning another whirlwind trip specifically to photograph those inquisitive glances (ultimately taking more than 32,000 shots in 15 countries).