What could I say in a Photobook?

When considering the photobook options I was reminded of, and found, this great set of advice on Prezi by an Open College of the Arts tutor. It’s a useful reminder about good practice and bad. The only thing I would take issue with  is the recommendation about writing text to complement the images including and introduction and conclusion. My aim aim is to pair down the text as much as possible and let the images speak for themselves via 1) their content; 2) there relationship with preceding and following images and 3) the context – in this case the book.

There are many books about disability and there are many artists who are, or were, impaired and or disabled; there are many organisations of and for disabled people and some like Disabled Arts Online are important portals into contemporary disability arts. But when researching my particular little bit of disability space I haven’t been able to find a book doing what I aim to do – bring out the cultural and emotional elements around my paralysis. Thus my book needs to speak of its (my) time and place.

Moreover there are many books on the subject of disability such as these below.

  • The Politics of Staring: Visual Rhetoric’s of Disability in Popular Photography by Rosemarie Garland-Thomson 2002 Modern Language Association (2002) 
  • Spectacle of Deformity: Freak Shows and Modern British Culture by N Durbach published by University of California 2010
  • Picturing Disability by R Bogdan Syracuse University Press 2012
  • Picture Imperfect Photography and Eugenics 1870-1940 by Anne Maxwell, published by Sussex Academic Press 2008, 2010 edn.
  • Screening Stereotypes: Images of Disabled People in Television And Motion Pictures by P Longmore in Images of the disabled, disabling images by A Gartner and T Joe (eds) Praeger 1987
  • Buried in the Footnotes: The Representation of Disabled People in Museum and Gallery Collections by Dodd, Sandell, Delin and Gay, published by University of Leicester 2004
  • Revealing Moments: Representations of Disability and Sexuality By E Murray and S Jacobs in Re-Presenting Disability: Activism and Agency in the Museum by Sandell, Dodd and Garland-Thomson eds. published by Routledge 2010
  • Re-Presenting Disability: Activism and Agency in the Museum by Sandell, Dodd and Garland-Thomson eds. published by Routledge 2010
  • D Hevey, The Creatures Time Forgot: Photography and Disability Imagery, Published by Routledge 1992

All these articles and books have influenced me to greater or lesser degree. I am impaired – paralysed – but that does not in of itself disable me. Of course it severely limits my physical function. But its the way society organises itself that creates the social and physical barriers. For example, some buildings have ramps and lifts and kerb cuts while other places don’t. Such things are put in place because other people have made choices about whose needs to recognise and meet and whose needs to invalidate.

I spent a number of years working toward addressing these issues from a political viewpoint, but that process involves collective action and articulation. This MA is very different because it’s singular and particular. The nature of collective action is based on compromise and negotiation so for example, almost all of the issues addressed politically where to do with disablement – social barriers – whereas here I have focussed on all sorts of things that are personal to my individual experience and outlook including the management of my impairment. That is where culture and disability intersect as the kit and equipment and organisation of help are all culturally based. However I recognised in my research paper that while the physical, organisational and personal are are the primary expression of my viewpoint I will need to include some references to the body as disability does not exist without impairment.

So my aim in the book is to represent these things and together form a body of work that speaks about my personal experience but does so in a way that the viewer can see the cultural as well as personal . So it’s with these thoughts in mind that I have come to consider what the book should look and feel like and what sort of values it should evoke. 


About Pete

South Londoner struggling with life, art and photography.
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