You're walking down the street and a legless man on a skateboard zooms by. Your first reaction--shock? disgust? pity?
Welcome to Kevin Michael Connolly's world.
Author of the recent memoir Double Take, Connolly was born without legs. Instead of being institutionalized or coddled, Connolly's parents allowed him the freedom to experience life and grow into a remarkable young man. He attended public school, made friends and got into the usual high school escapades (such as dousing a parade crowd with permanent red dye), became a professional skier, and graduated from Montana State University with degrees in film and photography.
On a trip abroad, Connolly began paying attention to the reactions he received from the people he passed on the streets. As a kind of catharsis, he began to photograph passersby. These photographs became the basis for an exhibit, The Rolling Exhibition, as well as this book, Double Take.
Connolly brings his own unique voice to this work, and it is wonderful to read. The prose is clear & direct, without being maudlin. There are moments of disappointment and sadness, but they are never dwelt on for long. As he finally reaches the limit of his frustration with people staring at him and starts firing back (with his camera), Connolly realizes through his photos the impact his appearance has on others. This awareness, along with a visit to Sarajevo where his leglessness is not out of the ordinary among Bosnian war survivors, suggests a burgeoning maturity and selflessness.
Be sure to check out the author's promotional trailer for Double Take, as well as a feature ABC's 20/20 did on Connolly in 2007.
It will be interesting to see where Kevin Connolly's skateboard takes him next, and what he will show us on the way.