Richard Ansett

Alan in his Bedroom © Richard Anset

Cerebral palsy is a physical condition that affects movement, posture and co-ordination. Here Alan turns his body for the camera. The camera captures the relative difficulty of movement and balance for Alan in responding to an otherwise simple request. We are recording his beauty and his disability in synchrony. His nakedness recorded in a pseudo-scientific aesthetic is a recognition of the historic fascist anathema of the ideal citizen and the social Darwinism that defined the eugenics movement and continues to infect contemporary notions of beauty. Further, his nakedness emphasises his complicity and collaboration and documents his confidence and self love in sharing himself at his most vulnerable and beautiful in the face of silent micro-aggressive forces that is the prejudice of conventional aesthetics. 

I celebrate Alan’s progress surpassing my own journey towards self love , defeating the convention of beauty as a form of conformity to an unrealisable goal that continues to oppress us all.

As with my series of portraits of Lewis who has much more severe symptoms mostly visualised through facial and body involuntary movement, I am exploring the intimidation and repression of ‘the disabled’ as an analogy for the unobtainable expectation of conformity especially crystallised by the aesthetic rules of photographic practice.

These examples of representations of the disabled (which also include Man exercising for the camera, Ukraine 2017) are not shocking, provocative or disrespectful they are a re-appropriation of the subject’s reality free from any established conceptual expectation of beauty. Disability is relative and negative only through the prism of prejudice deeply etched into the rules of conventional representation.

In these unapologetic images the rules of engagement have been changed, they are celebrating the complex reality of the individual as opposed to the convention of sympathy and pity for a subject’s failure to meet the standards of ‘normal society’. Free from the patronising expectation of kindness that focuses on the victim first, masking the complex and difficult beauty of another complex life seeking some understanding of self within the limited timeline that we all share.