Robert is not able to pick up a camera. He is not able to arrange sets, lighting, or click the shutter, however, the images he captures are astouding. With the help of friends, family, and a staff of caregivers, there aren’t many things that Robert Andy Coombs can’t do. In fact, his biggest challenge is finding time to do it all! He is a college student, an artist, goes out with friends, spends time with family, and still manages to capture amazing images and express himself through photography.
Robert is a student at Kendall College of Art & Design, working toward a degree in Fine Arts & Photography. An athlete and scholar, Robert’s life took a drastic turn 3 years ago when the 21 year-old gymnast landed on his head during a double backflip on the trampoline. He broke his neck at the C4/5 level and would spend the next 6 weeks in rehabilitation at the University of Michigan Medical Center. Ventilator dependent and unable to move anything from chest down, he would have to learn how to do things a bit differently. “When I was newly injured,” he told The QuadFiles, “I couldn’t move anything for 9 months. It was tough because I was not able to do many of the things I used to.” In high school he was a swimmer and had always been a very active person. “I really miss it (swimming),” he admits. “But now I channel my thoughts and feelings through art and photography.”
Robert uses a digital camera tethered to a computer and a software program called Phase One, Capture One to take and edit photographs. “I had to figure out the right tools and technology for me. My rehab technician helped me find the equipment that would work best.” Robert uses Dragon Dictate to write papers and work on the computer and an iPhone 4S to text his friends. To get around, he uses a power wheelchair with a Jouse sip-and-puff joystick.
Robert has one more year to go before he finishes his degree. From there he is looking to either get a job in fashion photography or go on to grad school. “Eventually, I would like to be an art designer and creative director for fashion photography; designing the set, location, and lighting of shots professionally while still doing my own stuff on the side.” Robert has begun to build a following using Flickr and Facebook.