Project 14: a narrower focus – reductionism

Rather than attempt to include my body in the body of work I am creating I could focus down onto aspects of it that relate to my experience as a disabled person. Such an approach would amplify the sense of impairment as the image would show aspects of experience and failure of my body rather than the whole person. So less a general narrative and more a specific one.

A number of people have made aspects of bodies their focus. Sophie Ristelhueber’s Talking Wounds series of images are quite well known. She showed them larger than life and monochrome and so the viewer is presented with a documentary evidential style of viewing. Then there is Gary Schneider’s images which crawl over every aspect of the body from the body being reduced to its component parts right through to views of the whole. He doesn’t seem to focus on any bodily pathology but also doesn’t shy away from it if the sitter shows some aspect of illness or impairment.

Then there are others who focus down onto aspects of the body through particular activities or experiences such as Neil Grayshon and his new book Cycling Shouldn’t Hurt reveals images of London cyclists and their scars. How different to turn to Manabu Yamanaka’s monochrome photos of naked deformed, ill and impaired people. His stark straight approach with little shadow leaves the viewer in know doubt about the hardships some of the sitters have faced.

All of the approaches here are very different from the portraiture of identity and much more about narratives or forensics. In that way they are more akin to this sort of imagery I have previously explored about me in relation to the experience and management of my impairment as distinct from the disabled person in society.

Two images from the series entitled Paralysis. 2013 image

These two images do not try and document forensically through, they are more about ensuring aspects of my body and skin are clear to see but they just hover on the border between realism and abstraction. (The test is whether you could identify the parts of my body the images relate to. Can you? ….. the left hand image of of my left heal and the right hand photo is of my sacrum).

I’ve collected a number of images of my body over the years – see a small selection below.


What I find interesting about these images is the decision making process about what to emphasise. Take this photo below as an example.


The photo is of my right side a few weeks after skin flap surgery. This photo was taken with lots of constraints. It was taken at arms length by me while trying to keep a steady hand. Moreover, I think the photo offers an immediacy that I am not sure I want in my body of work. The freshness of the wound stiches and the bruising along with the belly and bed in view all make this a narrative image rather than one showing a more sustained experience. This would change if I used the photo in conjunction with others.

Another alternative is to focus on aspects of the scars like this below. However then they become almost abstract. image

But there are benefits to focussing on  such small details, as its through this that the unseen becomes visible. Take these scars on my stomach, under normal conditions they can’t hardly be seen.


I think I have the beginnings of one way forward here. Maybe trying a straight documentary approach where I isolate the scars without creating abstract impressions.


About Pete

South Londoner struggling with life, art and photography.
This entry was posted in Projects 13 and 14: My Face; My body and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Project 14: a narrower focus – reductionism

  1. Catherine says:

    The final image is more mysterious – makes me search for the meaning of the scars and what they are saying. Is this the effect you want to achieve though?

    Liked by 1 person

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