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Photo research as de-construction and construction of new perceptions (Poitee)

For our second class of photo research, we did an exercise of visual storytelling. We brought 50 images that were, directly and indirectly, related to intellectual diversity, solidarity, charity, innovation, and current social, political, environmental, and technological trends, all aspects related to our project. Our plan was to do a selection of images found on the web and then create a story based on them, to help our clients to understand our point of view about diversity.

Our visual material (data) were filled with images that reaffirm popular beliefs of people with intellectual disabilities (ID) and others who contradict them. We had pictures of people doing simple manual labor but also pictures of ID people practicing creative, fun, and challenging activities such as design; we had cliché pictures of love and solidarity but also pictures connoting empowerment and equity; we had pictures of DI people participating in wellbeing activities (yoga 🧘‍♀️) but also pictures of “self-destructing” activities like smoking (🚬). In sum, we had pictures of people doing what society is used to seeing them doing, photos of people doing what society thinks is ideal for anyone, and photos of subjects doing what they please --careless of any health advice. Because to give freedom, to empower someone is to stop protecting and feeling sorry for that person and let her do whatever she wants. In this way, the main purpose of the exercise was to de-construct popular, degrading, images of people with ID and build and share new images and narratives that disrupt popular discourses and perceptions.

To emphasize our point(s), we decided to organize our images in a linear sequence, from what most ID people tend to work on nowadays to what we propose: fun, creative and challenging jobs. We believe that societal changes happen through a process; as such, perceptions should be de-constructed and newly built through a process.

After our story was shared, the professor challenged our work by proposing a new construction of our visual arrangement of photos. Through an exercise of analysis and selection, she suggested a more concise, accurate, engaging way to present our visual data to make it more attractive to our client. As we learned, ethics is important, but also aesthetics.

Here is the result of the exercise:

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