Project 13: More on managed identities: contemporary representations of disabled people

Again, I feel I am getting stuck with this project focused on the body and find myself looking at others work rather than creating my own. There are lots of interesting approaches to explore and  here John McCafferty focussed on wheelchair users at work (his title for the series).


McCafferty is a fellow wheelchair user. He broke his neck and sustained spinal cord damage at C5/6 of his neck and so has limited hand and arm movement as well as being paralysed in his trunk and legs. The photographer has two websites – a professional one where a few series of his work are displayed and a personal one that is mainly focussed on fundraising to support his independent living. I don’t think McCafferty’s paralysis is key to his approach as the images reminded me of some of August Sander’s taken some 80 years of so previously.


Both approaches share an honest style and realist aesthetic that aims to document rather than obscure or exaggerate. These are very different images from some of the contemporary disabled sports images such as created in The Road to Glory (or indeed representations of the 2012 Paralympics) where the photos are highly stylised.


However, none of these approaches appeal to me in regard of my aims here. These are all images that are the photographers’ creations and documents of others. This is how the photographers’ want to portray other people. My work is about my experience as a disabled person and a photographer and so less an observed reality and more about one experienced. Moreover I am trying to create a body of work where my physicality plays a role but should not dominate.

Now my next post will be of an artistic output as I need to produce something!

R and F. Bailey (1996) The Road to Glory, Published by Quiller Press

R. Booth (2011) Power and Movement : Portraits of Britain’s Paralympic Athletes : An Official London 2012 Games, Published by John Wiley & Sons


About Pete

South Londoner struggling with life, art and photography.
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