As regular readers will know, I have been trying to find a way of representing the body and signifying something of myself and my experience of paralysis without letting the body or impairment to wholly dominate the discourse. Well I now think that is impossible. The association of disability with its constituent part (impairment) means that anything I produce around the body seems to inevitably dominate the frame.
Accordingly, I have now given in to this and just created some imagery around portraiture that conflates impairment, identity and emotion and will not worry about how and whether I will use this. Rather I will just explore it. (And to be honest it’s been great fun).
I identified some images of different aspects of my impairment and overlaid them on self portraits. This first one didn’t work very well in terms of execution but the idea resonated and so I continued experimenting.
Somehow I like the obviousness of the manipulation of some of the images – especially the last two images. It seems to be explicit in evoking a sense of the corruption of the body while conflating that with images of me as I want to be seen and so offering the viewer a sense of me and my experience. The obvious constructed reality means that I am clearly making –constructing – a statement rather than documenting reality (I keep on thinking of Goffman and his Presentation of Self in Everyday Life and Stigma: Notes on the management of a Spoiled Identity because the images nod to his point that there are lots of things we manipulate to present ourselves in the best light but there are other things we can’t control).
There is no absolute final image from this set yet as that will be determined as and when I decide what the final products will look like. But I do particularly like this last one as the skin tones suggest a lack of blood the red sore scars offer a visible sense of pain not normally seen in paralysis, while the small dark eyes offer no emotion – it is what it is. So for now I think I have found one way of referencing the impairment aspect of my experience as distinct from the social barriers and as such it is an important – vital – contribution to the body of work. However I do think such imagery would dominate the other work because bodies, and especially faces, always do. Accordingly I think this type of photo may need to stand alone.
Goffman, E. (1963) Stigma: Notes on the Management of Spoiled Identity, Published by Simon and Schuster
Goffman, E. (1959) Presentation of Self in Everyday Life , Published by Doubleday Anchor Books