Deaf People in Photography

Young Asia girl taking pictures under backlight
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Photography is among the many career and hobby options open to deaf people. Here are just a few of the deaf people who have been involved in photography, past and present:

Maggie Lee Sayre

Maggie Lee Sayre was a deaf photographer who was born in Kentucky in 1920 on a river houseboat. She lived on a houseboat for more than 50 years. Both Maggie Lee and her older sister Myrtle were born deaf. During the school year, the sisters attended the Kentucky School for the Deaf in Danville, where they learned American Sign Language.

When she was 12, Myrtle was given a free camera by the Kodak company. Four years later, at age 16, Myrtle died and Maggie Lee became the owner of the camera.

Maggie Lee used that camera to begin taking more than 400 pictures that displayed riverboat life, including fish caught by her parents. Her talent as a photographer who captured a way of life - the Tennessee River culture - that no longer exists was not revealed to the world until the early 1980s when she was found living in a nursing home.

After she was discovered, her book Deaf Maggie Lee Sayre: Photographs of a River Life was published. Selected photos from the hundreds she had taken are printed in the book, accompanied by photo captions. The book was published in 1995 by the University Press of Mississippi.

The book brought Maggie Lee recognition, and her photos were included in a Festival of American Folklife on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.

Gallaudet University did a segment on her in their classic video program, Deaf Mosaic. (Episode 304 can be viewed online.) In addition, she was featured on the ABC Evening News in 1995 as a Person of the Week. Sayre passed away in 2000.

Tate Tullier

Maggie Lee did photography as a hobby. Tate Tullier is a contemporary deaf professional photographer.

Tate already had a distinguished career in photography before he gained further stature as one of 10 nominees in Purple Communications' Dream Bigger campaign, which honored deaf and hard-of-hearing people in such fields as civil rights, the arts and education. Tate won $10,000 and was named the Trailblazer of the Year. He donated the money to the Louisiana School for the Deaf.

Like Maggie Lee, Tate started taking pictures as a young teen. He was interested in the Louisiana landscape. While a student at Gallaudet University, Tate took pictures for both the Tower Clock yearbook and the student newspaper, the Buff ‚Äčand Blue. After graduating in 2003, he started his own photography business. At first, his business was based in New York City. Tate soon moved it to his home state of Louisiana. When Hurricane Katrina struck, Tate took pictures for a fundraising cookbook.

Tate promotes his photography services on multiple websites. His own website,, showcases many of his photographs in various categories, including weddings and people. His other sites include a Facebook page, a blog, and Twitter. Tate has been interviewed by deaf media such as iDeafNews, on YouTube. In the iDeafNews video, he discusses having deaf clients.

Tate is also one of the artists featured on the Deaf Professional Arts Network (D-PAN) website.

Michael Pimentel

Another contemporary deaf photographer is Michael Pimentel. Michael is a self-taught digital photographer who graduated from the Clarke School for the Deaf (now Clarke Schools for Hearing and Speech) in 1990. He specializes in sports photography; his photos have appeared in such professional sports publications as Sports Illustrated. Michael has even covered the Olympics. According to his website,, he works for the University of California as a sports photographer.

Support for Deaf Photographers

The deaf photography community has support on the Internet via social media. Flickr has a deaf photography group, and there are pages to follow on Facebook.

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