"Wheelchair Tornadoes and Other Things Our Eyes Cannot See" By Dianna Temple
So much is put on the shoulders of disabled people, and the people around them. The problems that exist are often invisible. People are invisible. This project is about that, and the power dynamic between the photographer and the subject. Beginning in 2019, Matt Ebert volunteered to work with me. He let me into his home with a 4x5 camera. At first, I was cautious, but Matt was not. He encouraged me to experiment. Matt said,” You will have to dig a lot deeper into your bag of weird to scare me off.” He wanted to be photographed, and that mattered. There is often an assumption that photographs of disabled people by able-bodied photographers exploit. If this is true, then disabled people become a taboo subject matter. People are either erased or “safe” tropes begin circulating to avoid criticism. Photography can perpetuate stereotypes because people can perpetuate stereotypes. Here, Matt’s body merges with his power wheelchair to question our eyes. Wheelchair tornadoes resist aggressive documentary styles and disability tropes that portray sympathy and inspiration and replace them with tableaux. Photography can change the way people see disability because it influences how we see. It may take an entire sea of new images to change perception, but this is a place to start.
Dianna Temple is both a working artist and an occupational therapist. She has a bachelor’s degree in Fine Art from Bowling Green State University and an Occupational therapy Doctorate from the University of Toledo. Her photographic work examines her experience growing up with a sibling with a disability and how that relationship changed her perspective. In her project, she photographs her friend Matt Ebert to comment on the gaze between the photographer and subject. Through the lens of the Social Model of Disability she interrogates invisible social constructions that affect the daily lives of people with disabilities. The Social model emphasizes the social, political, and environmental barriers of disabled people and how the opposing Medical Model has informed tropes of disability into our image culture both currently and historically. Dianna is an MFA Candidate at the School in Visual Studies from the University of Missouri teaching photography.