Informing Contexts – Week 5 (2/2)

The body and the land.

This topic has made me think about how much I am influenced by the subtle powers of the culture I live in. Do I see the land as female? Mother Nature? And if I do, do I want to conquer it rather than care for it. Comparing the work of Edward Burtynsky and Ansel Adam‘s, with the former highlighting what human’s have inflicted on the land and Adam’s showing what we stand to lose brings more clarity to how I want to present the work I make. There is an element of both – the impact and the potential losses – but as for nature being female and seen with a male gaze; nope, not how I see it.

I see nature for what it is – I do not feel a need to anthropomorphise it, nor make it spiritual. It does not need to be made more human or divine to be appreciated and understood – or to know how dependent we are on it. We associate words to nature (we do that to all things) as a means to communicate, and for some the idea that nature is female and we are at her mercy may seem appealing. For others the desire to conquer and dominate nature may be their thing. For me it is about the complexity and beauty that is nature and the wonder it brings even if viewed through more scientific eyes.

Just Giving

I have always had a strong sense of which charities I want to donate to. Not necessarily because I think the ones I choose are more deserving (although they resonate more personally with me) but because I simply cannot support them all. When I viewed the images shown this week in reference to how people with disabilities are portrayed, the image that stood out was for Enable Scotland (2007) and showed a Down Syndrome woman with the text: If i [sic] ate out of a dog bowl would you like me more? In further text it went on to state that animal charities attracted double that of disabilities ones.

Considering that previous images had asked if it is only by pitying the subject and emphasising the differences would people donate, for me this text turned me away from the message it was trying to make. I understand they want to emphasis that this person is as, if not more, important as an animal and therefore worthy of our support but in doing so, as I do give to animal causes,  I do not like that it tries to use guilt to garner it. That somehow I am not as good a person because I have donated to an animal charity rather than this one.

I was surprised by the Vogue Brazil’s 2016 We are all Paralympian adverts. These showed attractive ‘sports people’ with disabilities. Except the models were actors/spokespeople not the paralympians they were meant to portray and their bodies had been manipulated to appear with the disability of the sports person they represented.


This caused plenty of upset but interestingly, the female paralympian said on Instagram: ““We lent our image to generate visibility. And that’s what we’re doing. My God.” So perhaps it is not up to society to be indignant until it knows what the people who actually are disabled feel.

Charity advertising that uses the guilt effect does not tend to work for me. Charity fatigue and/or cause overload are also phrases used to describe the drop in donations in recent years. But charity marketing isn’t going away so new ideas need to be considered. An article on The Drum points to human connections as the way to go, leaving behind the guilt trip adverts.

And perhaps that is the ultimate difficulty for charities representing people with disabilities; how to engage people without any, or no close association to people with one.

Linda Dajana Kruger‘s images from Real Prettiness felt the most positive and inclusive for me. They portrayed people with Down’s Syndrome being involved in the whole portrait process, choosing how they want to present themselves. The images are as appealing as any beautiful portrait – and why shouldn’t they be. For me, an image such as this is more likely to extract support if used by a charity, and potentially more than just financial.



The Telegraph: [accessed Feb 27, 2017].

The Drum: [accessed Feb 27, 2017].

Huffington Post: [accessed Feb 27, 2017].