The rapid flourishing of photography after 1839 provided a new way to stare at disability. In our ocularcentric era, images mediate our desires and the ways we imagine ourselves.' Among the myriad, often conflicting, and never indifferent images modernity offers us, the picture of ourselves as disabled is an image fraught with a tangle of anxiety, distance, and identification. As a culture,we are at once obsessed with and intensely conflicted about the disabled body. We fear, deify, disavow, avoid, abstract, revere, conceal, and reconstruct disability - perhaps ...
... because it is one of the most universal, fundamental of human experiences. After all,we will all become disabled if we live long enough. Nonetheless, in representing disability inmodernity, we have made the familiar seem strange, the human seem inhuman, the pervasive seem exceptional. By the beginning of the twentieth century, for example, public displays of disabled people became inappropriate in the same way that public executions and torture came to beconsidered offensive. Disabled people were sequestered from public view ininstitutions and the private sphere as middle-class decorum pronounced it impolite to stare. Photography, however, has enabled the social ritual of staring at disability to persist in an alternate form. (Garland-thomson, 2002)
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- Garland-Thomson, T. (2002). The Politics of Staring: Visual Rhetorics of Disability in Popular Photography. In: Disability Studies: Enabling the Humanities.
- photograph (Radical Beauty Project) via