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Title: What is wrong with disability imagery? : towards a new praxis of social documentary photography
Author: Speake, Terry
Awarding Body: University of Bolton
Current Institution: University of Bolton
Date of Award: 2012
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This critical appraisal presents the processes and outcomes of a coherent research programme carried out between June 2008 and June 2011 that interrogates the representation of disabled people through in-depth, practice-led case study and analysis, leading to the formulation of a praxis framework for presenting collaborative social documentary photography practices associated with disability. Through the systematic production of bodies of commissioned and personal projects, both successful and unsuccessful, an epistemology of practice is presented that constitutes an independent and original contribution to knowledge. This practice-led research investigates claims that photographic images of disabled people often fail to represent individuals as empowered members of society because of societal references to stereotyped constructions of 'otherness' defined by negative signs of their disability. In order to question this, polemics from disability rights commentators who have referred to, but failed to engage fully with discourses surrounding photographic ontologies and professional practices, thereby constructing a binary line between disabled subjects and their image-makers, are challenged. The implication in their arguments is that photographers have been participating, knowingly or unknowingly, in disablist practices, contributing to the 'othering' of disabled people. By taking an interdisciplinary approach, co-locating photography and disability studies' theoretical frames within the trope of collaborative social documentary practice, orthodoxies surrounding representational outcomes are challenged by investing disabled people with the responsibility for the construction of their own images. Therefore, it contributes to the body of photographic theory concerning representations of the 'other' demonstrating that collaboration is a complex landscape of asymmetrical power structures on many levels -client, photographer, subject, audience - that are difficult to stabilise. By demonstrating synergy between academic theory and professional practice through publication, exhibition and critical discourse, this investigation informs and gives voice to disabled people themselves. Moreover, it adds to, and stimulates scholarly debate on a high-profile public matter by informing policy-makers, health professionals, commissioners and photographers on a controversial area of representation.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available