Clare Cassidy is an artist, with a beef against President Donald Trump. “I was so pissed off,” Cassidy, who is based in Livermore, says. “I could see his oppression to everyone that he’s touched — people with different religions, people of color, deaf. Humanity has been tainted.”

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When Cassidy signs about Trump her eyes blaze, and her gestures seem sharper, more emphatic. You really notice her gestures because Cassidy is deaf. She speaks using American Sign Language through an interpreter, in this case, her friend Shelley Lawrence.

Photographer Clare Cassidy signing the word roar
Photographer Clare Cassidy signing the word “roar.” (Photo: Cy Musiker/KQED)

Cassidy says that while she was initially in a state of despair after the presidential election, she soon realized she had a way to turn her anger into visual art.

“As a deaf person, I am attuned to the environment with no auditory distractions,” Cassidy says. “So I capture things with my eyes.”

Wearing your heart on your chest

Cassidy is a photographer, with a thriving business in family portraits. But for this project, she’s recruited around 140 subjects so far — both friends and strangers — for an online series of black and white portraits she calls Roar from the Heart.

For the images, Cassidy asks people to spell out their feelings, literally, by writing them in marker on their chests. Then they pose for her camera.

An image from Clare Cassidy‘s photo series ‘Roar from the Heart‘
An image from Clare Cassidy‘s photo series ‘Roar from the Heart‘ (Photo: Clare Cassidy)

“When you’re angry, when you’re happy, you feel it in your chest, Right? In your heart,” Cassidy says.

The subjects’ faces reflect their words: “Tenacious,” “appalled,” “fierce.” Two women in the same picture share the defiant phrase, “Don’t even try to touch our marriage.”

One of the images from Clare Cassidy‘s photo project ‘Roar from the Heart‘
One of the images from Clare Cassidy‘s photo project ‘Roar from the Heart‘ (Photo: Clare Cassidy)

Besides her photography work, Cassidy teaches at the California School for the Deaf in Fremont. She says she’s photographed herself twice for the series. In the first image, she wrote the word “enraged” on her chest. “I really wanted to choke someone,” Cassidy says.

By the time she captured herself on camera again, she had a different attitude. “I’m a fighter,” she says. “So the second photograph had the word ‘fighter.'”

A self portrait by Clare Cassidy for ‘Roar from the Heart‘
A self portrait by Clare Cassidy for ‘Roar from the Heart‘ (Photo: Clare Cassidy)

Personal animosity

For many disabled artists, the animosity toward Trump is personal. Cassidy she says people in her community haven’t forgiven Trump, while on the campaign trail, for mocking and mimicking Serge Kovaleski, a disabled reporter now working for The New York Times.

Susan Henderson, executive director for the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund (DREDF) in Berkeley, says the disabled community’s feelings about the president extend beyond that incident. “President Trump is implementing policies that will hurt people with disabilities,” Henderson says. “We feel that what he was doing on the campaign was certainly foreshadowing that.”

Henderson says the disability rights community worries about Trump’s efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act. That puts at risk the Obama era requirement that insurance companies cover people, like the disabled, with preexisting conditions.

Henderson says her organization is also concerned about Trump’s choice of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, because she seems ignorant about the Individuals with Disabilities Enforcement Act (IDEA). IDEA is a law that seeks to protect the rights of disabled students, and DeVos says she wants to leave enforcement of the act up to the states.

“The reaction to DeVos was greater than anything I’d seen,” Henderson says. “We had so many phone calls and emails. It was a groundswell. It was the grassroots rising themselves up to talk about how inappropriate her appointment was.”

An image from Clare Cassidy‘s photo project ‘Roar from the Heart‘
An image from Clare Cassidy‘s photo project ‘Roar from the Heart‘ (Photo: Clare Cassidy)

Capturing passion with a camera

This level of passion can be clearly seen in the photos captured by Clare Cassidy in Roar from the Heart. These days, the artist calls herself an “alarmist for humanity,” warning society about the dangers of the President’s policies concerning women, Muslims, people of color and  the disabled.

So if Trump were to stumble on Cassidy’s online gallery, what would the artist like the president to feel?

“A little twitch in his heart,” Cassidy says. “I just hope it can start him understanding the bigger picture.”

Photographer Clare Cassidy signing the word empathy
Photographer Clare Cassidy signing the word “empathy.” (Photo: Cy Musiker/KQED)

Cassidy is still recruiting subjects for her photo project. And she’s encouraging people to submit their own images with a word or phrase on their chest, shot against a dark background, with the hashtag #roarnow.

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Deaf Photographer Protests Trump with Strong Words 11 April,2017Cy Musiker

  • DeafGator

    Awesome news, however, “Deaf and Mute” (or even just “mute,” when applied people who do not speak) is an archaic term that is considered offensive.

    May deaf people do not use a spoken language, thus are technically “mute.” The word “mute” has an archaic meaning that means “dumb.” Of course, the word “mute” also has another more common meaning now that implies which certainly is not applicable to most deaf people.

    Muteness is a medical/physiological condition that has nothing to do with being deaf. Many deaf people do not use their voices (with hearing people) because they are not understood and/or because it is difficult to monitor the volume.
    “Muteness” or the inability to speak orally, certainly has much to do with being deaf. Anyone who knows deaf individuals who have been deaf since birth or early childhood, knows that their inability to speak orally results from having never heard the spoken word. It is not fear of “not being understood” and it is not fear of “difficulty in monitoring the volume” that results in their inability to speak orally.
    Given the history of deafness, and the fact that deaf people have been incorrectly assumed to be mentally deficient just because they do not speak, you can imagine that most deaf people do not appreciate being called “deaf and mute.”

    Today, anyone using the word “mute” in such context is … well … dumb.

    Please see that you update your article eliminate word of “mute.

    • Clare Cassidy

      Yes. You’re correct. It has been remedied. I’m so grateful that they quickly fixed that error.

      • Michelle Bailey Martin

        When click “share” STILL comes out Deaf Mute ????

    • Cy Musiker

      We fixed the headline a while ago–and just changed the URL on the story as well. So sorry for our mistake. Thanks for your thoughtful comment.

  • tom

    the URL still says deaf-MUTE, fix it.

Author

Cy Musiker

Cy Musiker co-hosts The Do List and covers the arts for KQED News and The California Report.  He loves live performance, especially great theater, jazz, roots music, anything by Mahler. Cy has an MJ from UC Berkeley’s School of Journalism, and got his BA from Hampshire College. His work has been recognized by the Society for Professional Journalists with their Sigma Delta Chi Award for Public Service in Journalism. When he can, Cy likes to swim in Tomales Bay, run with his dog in the East Bay Hills, and hike the Sierra.

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