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Cathedra 900: Tagging photographs with disability / 10 June 2012

photo of a stone angel in Exeter cathedral

Image taken in Exeter Cathedral. Photo © Mark Ware

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All of my photographs are tagged with disability. 

Since January I’ve taken several hundred digital photographs for the Cathedra 900 project at Exeter Cathedral. This is in preparation for the 3D exhibition that will run from 23rd July until 31st August. From the outset I’ve catalogued each shot for easy access at a later date. But what I hadn’t reckoned on was how my disability would help with this process.

I had my stroke over 16 years ago. It impacts upon every aspect of my life, every minute of every day. Its affects include visual impairment, mobility problems, continual dizziness, feelings of intense nausea, pain that can be almost unbearable at times, memory problems, emotional swings, confusion and so on. Overall, in my case, my disability is a ‘multimedia’ experience.

I mention this because, strangely, it has been of positive use in helping me catalogue my photography. I never feel well and so everything I do involves an enormous amount of illness and a great amount of determination to overcome it. That results in me not taking anything for granted and it also means that I intimately remember exactly where and when I was when I took each of the photographs I’ve taken at the Cathedral.  I can even recall temperatures and smells.

For example, in order to take the accompanying photo, I set the tripod low and had to kneel on a stone floor and bend over to look through the camera’s viewfinder. The kneeling caused searing pains in my knees and back, and bending over caused great feelings of nausea and dizziness. The day was cold and it was raining outside. The stone floor was cool to the touch and had a distinct smell. The light level in the Cathedral was very low (the above photograph had a 30 second exposure set at f22) and the small number of visitors that day resulted in barely perceptible whispering sounds of conversations spread throughout the building. 

(Cathedra 900 is supported using public funding by the National Lottery through Arts Council England and is also supported by Exeter Cathedral.)