Module 5: Image Workshop
In the next three modules, the focus is on “Crip Making: Image, Audio, and Video.” In these modules, you will encounter a blend of theoretical work on the meaning of digital crip making as well as practical tips to guide you through your own process of digital creation. While you will find plenty to ponder in these pages, you may reach the end of the module and find yourself craving more information. Digital methods and crip creation are processes — processes that often lead us to new questions and relationships with the world. This is part of the magic of digital methods: they keep us thinking and exploring. We resist the urge to give any ‘final answers’ or definitive accessibility guide as another goal of this Pressbook is to aid you in developing troubleshooting, problem-solving, and critical thinking skills, especially in the ever-changing digital context. You are encouraged to do further research, find the platforms that suit you, ask critical questions of your own, and play with different methods of building access into your own digital making.
This module begins with an examination of images in our everyday lives, including our digital creation. Why do we study images? In “The Politics of Staring: Visual Rhetorics of Disability in Popular Photography” (2002) Rosemarie Garland-Thomson writes,
All representations have social and political consequences. Understanding how images create or dispel disability as a system of exclusions and prejudices is a move toward the process of dismantling the institutional, attitudinal, legislative, economic, and architectural barriers that keep people with disabilities from full participation in society.
Let’s break this quote down. In the simplest terms, Garland-Thomson is arguing that our encounters with images of disability are not socially or politically neutral. Tanya Titchkosky (2009) builds on the idea that images of disability are not asocial or apolitical, arguing,
We never come to imagine and perceive disability ‘purely,’ we perceive disability through our cultural assumptions. While there is no one correct representation of disability, there are more or less typical representations of embodied differences that count as disability in Western culture.
(p. 76, emphasis in original)
When considered together, Garland-Thomson and Titchkosky are arguing that we view images through our existing understandings of disability. Every picture we like on Instagram, every picture we see in an advertisement, and every photograph we use to support our research is viewed through our own personal lens. This lens is made up of our own cultural understandings, assumptions, experiences, and biases. In turn, we share our understandings and biases with others when we create and share images. The act of creating and sharing images can also be an act of passing along ableist, racist, sexist, classist, colonialist and imperialist, fatphobic, and various other oppressive perspectives. Click on the concepts below for examples of some of these ‘-isms’ and the ways they are mobilized in photography. Each section also offers a recommendation for a reading that helps highlight the issue. This will help us develop a shared vocabulary for discussing and analyzing problematic or troublesome perspectives created and enforced by images.
After learning more about problematic systems and structures created and enforced by images, take a moment and think about some of the biases you may bring to your creation and interpretation of images. What are your initial perceptions of the following image?
You did not have any context for this image, but you likely had some initial reactions or feelings. Your mind may have begun to form a story, to narrate what is happening in the image. Did the black and white finish of the image prompt you to think about the cultural mindset of disability as unfortunate or disabled people as the objects of pity? Perhaps social constructions of masculinity as the ‘norm’ popped up and you found yourself assuming that the subject sitting in a wheelchair is a man. How might this image reinforce the perception of women and feminine people as caregivers? Can we reflect on the ways wheelchairs are used in images as a dominant symbol of disability?
Now that you are warmed up and ready to engage critically with images, consider the following learning goals and make your way through the content and exercises in this chapter.
In this module we will:
- Analyze stock photography to understand the roles of photographic representation in disability justice work.
- Perform a platform analysis of Instagram, interrogating the affordances, constraints, and accessibility of digital images and image-sharing online.
- Explore and analyze the ways images create and reinforce cultural understandings of disability and other intersecting identities.
- Create and edit our own images to communicate a personal narrative tied to a social/cultural/political issue or movement.