EIA Panelist Maayan Ziv on Living Life to the Fullest
Among the many sessions, workshops, and panels at Empowerment In Action are many inspiring and knowledgeable people who are looking forward to sharing and connecting with attendees. Maayan Ziv is one such speaker. She will be participating in the ‘Living Life to the Fullest’ panel. Maayan is an accomplished photographer, recipient of a Queen’s Diamond Jubilee medal, and is looking forward to traveling to Vancouver, BC to share experiences.
So what can you except from her participation in the panel? “I would say that I will be giving a truthful, and raw perspective of my life, along with its challenges and successes,” states Maayan. “I’m going to tell it as it is – answer any questions as honestly as possible and share my life’s story that’s brought me to where I am today.”
Maayan has attended some Muscular Dystrophy Canada events in the Toronto, ON area working as the event photographer and is excited to speak at EIA. “Being a part of the panel is a really great way to get more involved. It’s my first time going to EIA and I can’t wait. I am really looking forward to participating in every way I can,” Maayan says.
The core purpose of Empowerment In Action is to share resources, experiences, and education. By the end of the summit everyone goes home with new information, and ideas. Maayan hopes to come away inspired, “EIA is going to be a great learning experience. To be able to meet so many others affected with muscular dystrophy will give me a chance to learn from what they have found works and doesn’t work for them. It’s a cool opportunity for both myself and others to chat about important issues and hopefully come away with some great tips and tricks.”
“In order to live my life to the fullest I like to keep as active as possible. I do that by reminding myself to be a ‘yes person’ and try as many new things and experiences as possible. I like to be curious. I’m always poking around, looking for new ways to do things – especially with my photography.”
Maayan is an accomplished photographer, who has been published in magazines and galleries as well as featured on television numerous times. We asked her how she began with photography: “In high school we had a trip to New York with the class to go see the sites, and shows [Maayan went to a performing arts high school.] When we arrived, the airline had broken my chair, and provided me with a silly replacement chair only days later,” she remembers. “I was not able to keep up with my friends and instead spent lots of time wandering the streets with a simple little camera I had at the time. I just captured what I was seeing, what I was interested in. When I went back to the hotel, I would look at the photos from the day. I had captured moments, and these moments told stories. I was very excited about that, and was pretty much hooked on photography from then on.”
Turning a passion from high school into a business and career is a difficult, challenging and exciting process for anyone, let alone someone with a disability…so how did Maayan get started? “Photography is definitely a very competitive business but I love it so much I couldn’t imagine doing anything else, and I have been very lucky so far. My passion is what drives me forward from day to day. It is so rewarding to have an idea, plan for it, and then see everything come together in front of you. I love working with people, the process of trying to capture who they are through my lens – that’s the best part.” Does she think being affected by Spinal Muscular Atrophy gets in the way? “When I was younger I thought that my disability would hold me back, but now I realize that this is really not the case. In fact, my disability is a big part of what makes me unique as a photographer. I’m excited to try new things all the time and I find a lot of people are too” she exclaimed. “I’m hoping to travel more. To go to places like India or Africa, where it can be kind of tough to navigate with a wheelchair. I like the creative challenge…and really, there are always going to be things I will have to work through, but most of the time I find the difficulties turn out to be advantages in the end.”
Aside from working as a photographer, Maayan also studied Media Arts at Ryerson University, located in downtown Toronto. She graduated 2 years ago and the lessons have followed her out of school, “The program encourages creativity, out of the box thinking – to find what people aren’t seeing. I learned a lot about communicating through different types of media and I find I actually apply a lot of the techniques learned in school to all parts of my life. When you have a disability, you need to know how to communicate to get things done, voice issues with access, etc, studying media taught me a lot about how to work with all kinds of different people, which is a pretty useful tool for anyone to learn.” And how was it to navigate through school? “Well, in terms of accessibility, Ryerson was very accommodating. I was able to gain total independence with moving downtown and the University made sure to help with anything I needed.”
We beg to ask the question as a speaker at a conference called Empowerment In Action… who inspires Maayan? The Honourable David C. Onley, the Lieutenant Governor of Ontario. “I love that he is able to speak from an honest position on disability, and through his role is able to increase the much needed awareness [His Honour has partial paralysis after battling polio as a child.] I hope that I am able to do the same through my art, to bring attention to things that can be changed. I recently had the chance to photograph him for his final report.” Maayan’s relationship with His Honour dates a couple years back, and he was the one to present her with a Queen’s Diamond Jubilee medal. “It feels pretty cool to be a recipient,” says Maayan. “It was a huge honour to be rewarded, especially since I had not heard about the medal. I received it for helping to raise awareness of disabilities in the arts. That’s incredible for me as it is my goal, my mandate pretty much verbatim. It’s a moment I will never forget.”
Her last advice? “Stay open. Taking risks is important. Challenge yourself, and do something you love.”