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Monday, April 12, 2021

Zachary Ordonez enjoys meeting people with temporary disabilities.

He feels comfortable approaching them, asking them about their injuries and inviting them to be the subjects of his art.

Ordonez, a UF graduate student, takes photographs of temporarily handicapped people for an art project to earn his master's degree in fine arts.

"I'm interested in the injury itself and how it heals and changes and how the people change as well," he said.

He said he prefers to take the photos at the site of the subject's injury or something reminiscent of their life before the injury.

For one shoot, Ordonez photographed a female student on a track who had an ankle injury, and by her tear-filled eyes, he could see she was uncomfortable with people who were running.

During the first photo session, he said, participants experience discomfort and seem sensitive about their injuries.

After a month passes, Ordonez schedules another session to show the physical healing and emotional relief that the participants experience, he said.

The physical aspect is important to Ordonez's project, but he enjoys observing the changes in emotions as well.

As the injury heals, participants' attitudes and demeanors change, he said.

Ordonez usually interviews his volunteers after each session to get a better understanding of what they are going through and what has changed in their lives since their injuries.

"I want to get to the depth of the injury," he said.

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On the UF campus last semester, Ordonez approached 20-year-old Matt Znoj, an SFCC student at the time, who had his ankle in a cast because of a fracture he got in a motorcycle accident over Winter Break. Znoj, who now attends the University of Central Florida, said the interview gave him a chance to explain what he was going through.

He said he had some nervousness about getting back on his bike and some frustration about the discomfort he was feeling.

"It helped me a little bit with the healing," Znoj said. "It was nice that someone was taking an interest."

Ordonez plans to contribute a portion of the final project to Shands HealthCare for display, so people discouraged with injuries can see others' progress and have hope, he said.

Whitney Salem, a nursing student at UF, said Ordonez's project may have benefits similar to major health foundations, but at a different level for those who have only temporary health concerns.

The project would give hope to temporarily injured people by allowing them to see that someone has been in their shoes, even if they do not know the person in the picture, she said.

"It's easy to get discouraged when things are not as easy as they used to be," Salem said.

Ordonez ultimately wants to publish a book of his work that can be used as inspiration for someone recovering from an injury.

Until then, he plans to keep meeting injured people and photographing their recoveries.

"Don't take your health and well-being for granted," he said. "Enjoy it and cherish it."

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