Project Proposal: Refocusing

We were all given a deadline of this Tuesday to review, amend and submit our revised project proposals in a particular format by this Tuesday and the review has really been timely because I was getting stuck last week. I now feel that I have a clear direction to my work. This is my proposal.

Working Title: Seen unseen: disability re-presented

Research question: why do people see selectively?

Aims and Objectives:
One would expect that the onset of digital technologies and the resulting explosion of imagery produced and shared, to have resulted in all subject matter being represented from a variety of points of view (Cooper Smith, 2013, Etherington, 2014). Yet I contend that this is not the case. Disability is represented, but in ways that does not reflect my and other’s personal experience (Garland-Thomson, 2002). Accordingly I want to explore, understand and challenge dominant visual representations of disability through my work and present a body of work that represents my experience and outlook as a disabled man.

The process will allow me to explore and extend my own artistic repertoire. Accordingly my project aims are to:

Aim 1: Explore how to evoke specific understanding of disability

Aim 2: Experiment and develop my own visual artistic repertoire and ability to visually articulate

In order to achieve the above I will need to meet the following objectives.

      1. Explore and document the photographic representation of disabled people
      2. Experiment using different visual forms within photography to express myself
      3. Locate my work in terms of artistic perspective and context
      4. Produce a body of work
      5. Exhibit a body of work that meets the aims

These objectives will be achieved through my learning to blog and exploiting the power of the internet as an artistic and research portal. Much of my life is lived online and so it seems fitting that I aim to study and explore these issues though this medium.

Visual meanings are subject to many forces and while images are static their meanings range in meaning (Barthes, 1981, p65) because they are subject to many forces such as context (Gombrich, 1960) economics (Solomon-Godeau, 1991, p4-27), cultural fashions (Coleman, 1998, p91-112) and technology (Paul 2003). Accordingly there are three key contextual points of reference I will need to address in order to meet my aims and objectives.

Firstly, I will need to explore how visual meaning is transmitted and received in terms of the visual representation of disability. This will involve considering the issue in terms of its theoretical, historical, social and cultural, contexts and identifying any continuities and changes in that visual representation.

Secondly I will need to consider the above in relation to the contemporary context (Tag 2003, Tse, 2014). This will involve considering my experience as a disabled person in terms of psychology, history, geography, age and a range of other factors, such as contemporary photographic theory as well as identifying any current themes in the representation of disability and impairment, and also looking at connotation in terms of other groups such as women, racial groups and queer photography to see how meaning is created by visual representation for them (Guy, 2014 p16-21, Shakespeare, 2002).

Thirdly I will need to compare and contrast my experience with other disabled photographers and consider the similarities and differences between our approaches and work and determine why that may be.

This approach will allow me to both locate my work in terms of artistic practice and social context and inform my approach to representation of my experience.

The research method reflects my time and place: it will be qualitative in approach and be mainly primary based action research photography – practice based experiments in visual articulation through a series of projects that explore my experience and viewpoint. I will then compare and contrast my approaches against other historical and contemporary practitioners work and consider the evocations.

I will also carry out contextual secondary research, principally in the form of a literature review, where I will locate where my approaches sit in terms of social and cultural history – specifically those areas mentioned under Context.

My blog will be the place I record the process and trials. This will act both as a record and so allow for reflection, but will also allow for engagement with, and feedback from, others as I have 97 people following my blog at this time (October 2014).

In addition I will learn about blogging and online presence more generally to develop both my blog and website in order to show work in progress and completed projects, including physical objects – as and when these are finalised.

The outcomes of my project will be threefold: firstly there will be a completed research paper that will have informed my exploration and final approach to development of a body of work. Secondly there will be a body of work represented both in the MA exhibition – an event to generate a focus around the body of work – and online – that will have been informed by the research and approaches to photography based in phototherapy (Demarre, 2001) and activist art education (Emme, 2001). Thirdly, and most importantly, I will have found new understandings, self awareness and been subject to personal growth that will inform my continuing and future artistic practice after the MA.

Work Plan:
My workplan is based on weekly practice and experimentation. My approach is to generate work while exploring it in relation to its context – historical, contemporary and artistic – as outlined above, and engaging with fellow MA participants and other artistic bloggers.



Barthes R. (1981, 2000 edn) Camera Lucida, by Vintage

Coleman A. D. (1998) Conspicuous By His Absence: Concerning The Mysterious Disappearance Of William Mortensen in Depth of Field: Essays on Photography, Mass Media, and Lens Culture,University of New Mexico Press

Demarre L. (2001) Phototherapy: Traveling beyond categories. Afterimage, 29(3), pp. 6.

Emme M. (2001) Visuality in teaching and research: Activist art education, in Studies in Art Education, Vol 43, p57-74, National Art Education Association

Etherington D. (2014) Flickr At 10: 1M Photos Shared Per Day, 170% Increase Since Making 1TB Free, Available at: [Accessed on 26/10/2014]

Garland-Thomson R. (2002) The Politics of Staring: Visual Rhetorics of Disability in Popular Photography in Disability Studies: Enabling the Humanities, Snyder S, Brueggemann B, and Garland-Thomson R (eds), Modern Language Association of America

Gombrich E. H. (1960, 1987 fifth edn) Art and Illusion: A study in the Psychology of Pictrorial Representation, Phadion Press

Gorse N. Research Methods (08.10.2004) Available at: [Accessed on 26/10/2014]

Guy L. (2014) Queer in Practice in Source: The Photographic Review Issue 79, published by Photoworks North, Summer 2014

Paul C. (2003) Digital Art, Thames and Hudson

Shakespeare T. (2002) The social model of disability: an outdated ideology? In ‘Research in Social Science and Disability’ Volume 2, pp. 9-28

Smith C. (2013) Facebook Users Are Uploading 350 Million New Photos Each Day, Business Insider, Available at: [Accessed on 25/10/2014]

Solomon-Godeau A. (1991) Photography at the Dock, University of Minnesota Press

Tag J. (2003) Evidence, Truth and Order: Photographic Records and the Growth of the State in The Photography Reader, Liz Wells (ed), Routledge

Tse J. (2014) What It Means to be Seen: Photography and Queer Visibility, The Scope at Ryerson, Available at: [Accessed on 26/10/2014]


About Pete

South Londoner struggling with life, art and photography.
This entry was posted in Proposals, Tutorials, Symposiums, and Term Reviews and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Project Proposal: Refocusing

  1. Catherine says:

    Very clear and well-structured Pete.


  2. anomiepete says:

    Thanks Catherine. It still needs work – especially the workplan….


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