Chuck Prahl shoots from wheelchair, not hip, and uses...


January 10, 1993|By Mary Corey | Mary Corey,Staff Writer

Chuck Prahl shoots from wheelchair, not hip, and uses film, not bullets

Of all the risks Chuck Prahl has taken to get The Shot, this was the craziest: going out in 2 feet of snow, days after major surgery, to search for the perfect winter scene of the Chesapeake Bay. Before he even got near the water, he had a head-on collision with another car and landed back in the hospital.

No matter. When it comes to photography, Mr. Prahl is something of a daredevil. Shooting from a wheelchair, he says he has to be.

Paralyzed from the waist down by a hunting accident when he was 13 (a friend's gun misfired and hit him in the back while the two were looking for squirrels), Mr. Prahl, now 39, says he took up photography nearly a decade ago because he loved the tranquillity of nature.

"I think of this as freedom. A vacation. I get to travel around and look at things," says the father of two, who lives in Cambridge.

Some of what he's seen and photographed -- a blue heron at dawn and a fly fisherman in Western Maryland -- will be in "Spirit in Flight," an exhibit featuring the work of disabled artists at the Evergreen Carriage House through Jan. 31.

He acknowledges that his disability limits his chances of getting certain pictures and tells prospective clients that. Shooting from his truck with special lenses, he has watched wildlife scatter as he's approached. And his dream of taking his camera to the top of a snow-covered mountain seems unlikely, he says.

But he adds that being in a wheelchair can have its advantages. It has given him a different perspective from other photographers and taught him the patience necessary to wait for the right moment.

Others like what they see. So far, his work has appeared in Mid-Atlantic Country magazine, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation calendar and local papers.

He hopes one day to do a coffee-table book on the watermen of the Chesapeake Bay. But for now, he's satisfied when people appreciate his photos enough to take out their wallets.

"I love to hear people say they like my work," he says. "When they buy it, I feel even better." First, the outfit.

Bean (real name Mark Sanders) shows up at a Fells Point coffeehouse in shredded jeans, two black shirts, three black belts and torn leather gloves.

"This," he says, doing a model-like spin, "is normal, everyday Beanwear."

But little seems ordinary about this 25-year-old who describes himself as a poet, host, scout and barfly.

There's his nickname (It was given to him by friends at Dulaney High School to help make him popular; it didn't work, he says); his past (he flunked out of high school, was diagnosed with epilepsy and diabetes, suffered from depression, and worked as everything from a bagel maker to movie ticket taker); and his art (poetry infused with anger, humor and hip allusions to the Pep Boys -- Manny, Moe and Jack.)

Bean concedes that his interest in poetry was somewhat pragmatic.

"I was going to be a famous painter, but I was a mediocre artist," he says. "Then I realized that it was cheaper to be a writer. All you needed was the back of an envelope and a pen."

He credits his writing -- and his "guru," Skizz, an experimental filmmaker -- with supporting him when high school didn't work out. After sneaking into classes at Towson State University with Skizz, he signed up for continuing studies courses in English, poetry and philosophy.

Now he's trying to help other fledgling artists. As a leading supporter of the growing local poetry scene, he organizes readings at Cafe Montage, the BAUhouse and Irina's Cafe and scouts bars in search of talent.

He has no definitive answer as to why poetry is catching on in so many coffeehouses around town.

"Anyone can come in and have an identity, a voice, get some applause. I think that's important in a city where there's so much anger," says Bean, who lives in Cockeysville with his parents.

But rather than turn into group therapy sessions, his readings have a quirky, anything-goes quality. In the past, poets have imitated garden sprinklers, performed in body paint and worn masks. For his part, Bean once donned a suit of used syringes to illustrate a poem he had written about dealing with his diabetes.

If the scene upsets lovers of Yeats and Tennyson, so be it, says Bean.

"Poetry is not some ivory-tower, stuffy, dusty thing. Poetry is for everyone. It's an expression of the people. It's what everybody feels. . . . And it's a great way to not feel so damned lonely on this planet."

Have someone to suggest? Write Mary Corey, Baltimore Sun, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore 21278, or call (410) 332-6156.

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