The clinical gaze perpetuates otherness; In the hands of a doctor, the camera takes authority over the body. In the early twentieth century, people with disabilities were photographed and studied to build the foundation of our medical system. Images of the disabled became private and shameful. Eventually, tropes derived from the clinical gaze which depicted disability as tragic, or over-emphasized ability generating inspiration porn. Making Wheelchair Tornadoes is a photographic series that challenges this representation of the body perpetuated by the clinical gaze.
As an able-bodied photographer and occupational therapist, I reject the clinical gaze in an attempt to see the social constructions of disability in our world. I aim to create imagery that can build new conversations that are inclusive of people with disabilities. My friend Matt Ebert and I make wheelchair tornadoes to reframe the representation, authority, and clinical role of the photographer and the camera. Recording Matt’s performances, we produce tableau images using long exposures that resist the overtly conscious documentary style that asserts truth or tragedy. Matt’s blurring motion, exaggerated by the camera, interrupts the clinical gaze and uncovers the ambiguity of the photograph, which cannot diagnose, empathize, or inspire.
Dianna Temple‘s current work investigates the gaze between the photographer and subject through the lens of the Social Model of Disability. She interrogates the invisible social constructions that affect the daily lives of people with disabilities, like her sister. In her exhibitions, she considers accessibility by hanging the artwork at 36in on the wall. She has also collaborated with a team of engineers to design an interactive moveable frame that automatically slides up and down on the wall to adjust to the viewer’s height differences, especially those using wheelchairs. Dianna is currently teaching digital photography at North Central College and also works as a Service and Support Coordinator for people with developmental disabilities in Mansfield, Ohio.
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