There are thousands of photographic competitions, most of which require the applicant to pay an entry fee and that really bugs me. The problem I see with the approach is that it is very difficult to determine whether the competition is a way of generating income via the entry fees or a genuine administrative fee. This puts me off applying in most cases.
However there are a number of competitions that have a trusted name. One of these is the Jerwood/Photoworks Awards. My MA tutor alerted me to the awards and the criteria for entry and opportunity offered both fit my needs very well and so I have applied. However, I am under no illusion as to the very limited chance of success but hope conquers all.
Below is what I have said and the images I have sent.
Disability is distinct from impairment but the terms and subject matter are often conflated. If one carries out simple searches using terms such as disability or disabled the vast majority of imagery that results from it show visibly impaired people or icons signifying them and almost no images include visible references to the term that exclude the body. Thus the sociocultural aspects of the experience of disability are, through this process, made almost wholly invisible or concealed by the dominance of the impaired body, or parts of it, within the frame. The result is a type of visual hegemony where a very large part of the cultural experience of disability, and in my particular case paralysis, is masked. However, how can you trigger a particular connotation without using conventional triggers within a frame?
One tentative approach is to present meaning through an emphasis on what is created between things as much as within them. Some institutions have recognised this. For example, Besley and Low show how, in Reflections on Representing Experiences of Mental Illness in Museums, a reorientation of subject matter can be achieved that both recognises the impairment and demonstrates the social construction of disabling factors – attitudes and organisational and physical barriers – by re-contextualising artefacts so that they can be read in a new way that emphasised the service users perspective rather than the provider’s point of view. I want to do something similar in terms of the cultural experience of paralysis using photographic images rather than physical artefacts.
I have already created one body of work in book form and online that aims to invite the viewer to begin to understand paralysis from a personal and cultural viewpoint by largely excluding imagery of the body and wheelchairs and so preventing those aspects from dominating the discourse. However the choice of creating a book as the medium was to do with funds and access to exhibition spaces as much as anything else.
Accordingly this proposal is to create a body of work that is aimed at speaking to viewers in exhibition form. This is not a case of simply adjusting production values of existing work as that work was designed for a book. Rather it is a case of creating works that exploit exhibition spaces to visually articulate my viewpoint – in particular scale, physical presence and contexts – and engage the viewer.
The Jerwood/Photoworks award is uniquely placed to support this ambition. The funds will allow for work to be developed and produced on a scale otherwise unachievable; the mentoring will allow for wider and deeper points of reference and contexts to inform the development of the work and the curatorial support will support me in its realisation and articulation.
But more than that, the showing of the work through the Jerwood Visual Arts programme and subsequent UK group exhibition tour will allow me to engage those interested in art and artistic discourse with subject matter often hidden or distorted by the power of the body within the frame. In so doing I hope the work will break out of the disability art box and inform the wider contemporary photographic and artistic discourse.
So now it’s just a case of waiting and hoping……
 Union of Physically Impaired Against Segregation (1975) ‘Fundamental Principles of Disability’ quoted in Buhalis, D and Darcy, S. (Eds) (2010) Accessible Tourism: Concepts and Issues (Aspects of Tourism) Published by Channel View Publications p. 27
 Besley, J. and Low, C, (2010) ‘Hurting and Healing: Reflections on Representing Experiences of Mental Illness in Museums’, in Re-Presenting Disability: Activism and Agency in the Museum by Sandell, Dodd and Garland-Thomson eds. Published by Routledge, pp. 130-142