Turning the Lens on Inclusive Photography

July 26, 2013 | Zoltan Arva-Toth | General | 0 Comments |
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University of Bolton Senior Lecturer, Terry Speake (pictured), has been awarded a doctorate for his work exploring the way disabled people are represented in photography. "When you think about it, how often do you see images of disabled people represented as ordinary members of society rather than the ‘other’?" asks Terry. "By focusing on their impairments, disabled people may be defined by the negative signs of their disability rather than as empowered individuals... My framework isn’t an easy solution; it involves working with disabled people to create images that are right for them." Whilst the outcomes of Terry’s research provides unique insights of interest to practitioners and the academic community, it has presented the views of a substantial number of disabled people themselves, giving a voice to those who have in the past been excluded from creating their own images.

Press Release

Turning the lens on inclusive photography

University of Bolton Senior Lecturer, Terry Speake, has been awarded a doctorate for his work exploring the way disabled people are represented in photography.

Terry’s goal has been to create a framework that gives photographers a route to creating photographs meaningful to everyone – both the viewer and the person in the picture.

Said Terry: ‘When you think about it, how often do you see images of disabled people represented as ordinary members of society rather than the ‘other’? By focusing on their impairments, disabled people may be defined by the negative signs of their disability rather than as empowered individuals.

‘Their experiences of being photographed aren’t always positive either. It seemed clear there was a gap in our knowledge of how to make photography as inclusive as it can be.’

Terry’s doctorate work included a major commission from the Office for Disability Issues to repopulate the Government’s image bank of disabled people.

Working with more than 60 disabled people, support groups and advocates, Terry’s practice-based research has led him to work on social documentary projects, including photo stories of the everyday and an exhibition with young people from Bolton Lads and Girls Club.

Said Terry: ‘Giving the group from Bolton Lads and Girls Club the opportunity to curate their own exhibition threw up some challenging images, but it worked. What you realise is the way you might see an image is loaded with preconceptions that are not there in the eyes of the person depicted.

‘My framework isn’t an easy solution; it involves working with disabled people to create images that are right for them. And their first thoughts on what they think might be right isn’t always what they choose in the end. It takes time. It needs to be flexible.

‘But if we are going to have inclusive photography, everyone needs to be involved in the dialogue – and the time to get it right.’

Whilst the outcomes of Terry’s research provides unique insights of interest to practitioners and the academic community, it has presented the views of a substantial number of disabled people themselves, giving a voice to those who have in the past been excluded from creating their own images.

Terry was awarded his doctorate at the University of Bolton Degree Congregation Ceremony held on Friday (19 July 2013)



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