"Enabled" by Ian Ruhter
Words by Jill Webster
At the age of 13, Jarem Frye, now 30, noticed a pain in his knee that got continually worse as time went on. After a doctor's visit to make sure everything was in order, his test results came back diagnosing Jarem with bone cancer. He stayed active through the two years of chemotherapy that were recommended by playing basketball and mountain biking. The cancer did not respond to these treatments the way the doctor's were hoping, which left Jarem three options: he could have his leg amputated and wear an artificial knee joint (which would wear out easily and not allow him the active lifestyle he was used to), receive a donor's bone replacement (which was risky because it would never strengthen the way his own bone would) and the final option - amputate the leg and go with a prosthetic limb. Jarem chose to amputate the limb above the knee. "Nothing could really change my mind - I was determined and pretty sure of what I wanted. I've never regretted it." Prior to learning about his bone cancer, Jarem would occasionally telemark ski with his dad. After the amputation, whit was one of the first things he wanted to attempt. Jarem says that everyone called him crazy for wanting to try this - that even having a knee joint would not allow him to ski that way. "Ever since I made the choice to have my leg amputated, I made the choice not to be disabled. I had to prove that I could telemark ski. It just kind of became a quest to prove that I could do it." It was this quest that caused Jarem to create a prosthetic knee joint of his own - one specifically designed for athletic use. To him, prosthetics are like footwear. You don't wear tennis shoes to ski and you don't wear ski boots to play basketball. Shoes appropriate for walking and running may not be appropriate for rock climbing and skiing. Jarem recalls the biggest catch-22 of his business is the fact that a large percentage of his customers happen to be war veterans injured on duty. It's really hard for me to think I'm benefiting from what's happening to these men and women," Jarem says. "But at the same time, I can't think of a better reason for us to be in business and to have this product available." The word "disabled" refers to everyone in an equal manner, according to Jarem. "Everyone, including myself, is disable in some way. What people think my disability is, I don't consider a disability for myself. I think generally the thing that we share in common is that everyone is disabled mentally in one aspect or another and that's the one thing I am really trying to overcome and be an example for others to overcome."
Enabled is a project about disabled action sports athletes who step beyond their perceived limitations, to show us how being "disabled" is a state of mind. The goal is to reach out to both disabled and able-bodied individuals, including those who have an interest in photography and action sports. These stories will positively impact, and deliver encouragement to the disabled community as a whole. The project will be broken down into a documentary, traveling art show, book, and television episode.
We are currently pursuing funding to complete and produce the final outcome of "Enabled." If you are an art director, producer, TV network, magazine, company, etc., and are interested in learning more about the "Enabled" project, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org . The above photos have been cropped for a preview. To see the complete collection of photos please request a link to the online portfolio.