"Nothing Is Uglier Than Ignorance": Art, Disability Studies, and the Disability Community in the Positive Exposure Photography Project

By Abbott, Natalie | Journal of Literary and Cultural Disability Studies, January 1, 2011 | Go to article overview

"Nothing Is Uglier Than Ignorance": Art, Disability Studies, and the Disability Community in the Positive Exposure Photography Project


Abbott, Natalie, Journal of Literary and Cultural Disability Studies


The Positive Exposure photography project, a collaboration between Rick Guidotti and Diane McLean, has the aim of reconfiguring visible disabilities and differences as beautiful and worthy of celebration; it combines art, education, social activism, and support for the disability community. The article argues that an understanding of disability theory and the visual representation of disability can inform a discussion and interrogation of the assumptions behind such a project. Ultimately, Positive Exposure is found to function by simultaneously working with and against traditional modes of how the disabled body is presented to the public.

The stated goal of Positive Exposure, a collaborative photography project between former fashion photographer Rick Guidotti and scholar Diane McLean, is to provide "the opportunity for participants and audience alike to challenge stigma associated with difference by celebrating the beauty and richness of human diversity" (2). The project ranges from single photography sessions to exhibitions and educational presentations, as a "unique partnership between visual arts, genetics, mental health and human rights" (2). Various aspects of the Positive Exposure project include individual photography sessions for people with disabilities, photographing and presenting at support groups within the disability community (mainly organizations focusing on rare genetic conditions), presenting at schools, and advocacy efforts within the disability community.1 Social scientists may choose to discuss and measure the effect this project has on the subjects of the photographs, but looking at it from a Humanities perspective, as I start to do here, can illuminate various strengths and weaknesses.

The Photographs: Life Magazine (1998)

Because the scope of Positive Exposure has evolved, I begin by chronologically tracing its transformation from an artistic project to one encompassing artistic, social, and medical elements. The genesis of the project-publically displayed in a Life Magazine pictorial-involves photographs of people with Albinism, and a close look at the spread illustrates some of Guidotti's basic photographic methods.

The pictorial combines visual and textual elements, each mode highlighting several contrasts (see Figure 1). The first page of the article juxtaposes lightness and darkness; the model is portrayed against a black background that highlights the whiteness of her blowing hair, and the gold text contrasts with the two neutral colors behind it. The profile shot of the model, hair blowing, is itself a conventional photographic representation of the female body, even as the body it portrays is perceived as different. The text, "Redefining Beauty", one of the dual focal points of the page, and artistically juxtaposed with the portrait, highlights the insistence on the potentially multiple connotations of the phrase as a unifying concept for the project. Most explicitly, the idea of "redefining beauty" works within two pre-existing constructions: that there is indeed a clear definition of beauty, and that this publicly held construction is malleable and subject to influence by the artistic project at hand. A dual supposition is put forward: that there is a definition of beauty that can be catalogued and defined and that there exists the ability to guide this vision via the medium of photography. A subhead, "Photographer Rick Guidotti opens our eyes to the beauty of albinism," situates the project both as potentially revolutionary and as merely illustrating what is obvious and should be clear to any viewer. In forming the project rhetorically, as a guided endeavor, the photographs work within preconceived notions and stereotypes in order to challenge them.

The second page juxtaposes three photographs, once again echoing conventional fashion photography shots (a head-on shot with wind effects, a bodylength profile movement shot, and a posed dress-length shot) with interspersed text.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

"Nothing Is Uglier Than Ignorance": Art, Disability Studies, and the Disability Community in the Positive Exposure Photography Project
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.