Programme on BBC4 this evening exploring the concept of identity in our modern social media led culture from the perspective of four people with a disability. Each was invited to a photo shoot with Rankin at his London studio and all hated having their photographs taken.
Rankin made the observation that he was, ironically, part of the problem as a fashion photographer, spending his days creating these unattainable perceptions of beauty for advertising and the fashion industry. One of the people in the programme had a mental illness distorting her self image. Others had disfigurements, alopecia and prosthetic legs.
This raises questions of the ethics of photography. Is it responsible for people like Rankin to Photoshop images such that the public believe it to be the norm – and so believe themselves to be inadequate?
In the programme Rankin, supported by artist Alison Lapper, get to know them as individuals with identity. This uniqueness is not a weakness – it is what makes them strong, individual or beautiful. He builds rapport with them so that this individuality shines through, no longer hidden behind a lack of self confidence.
This felt like a timely introduction to one of the key themes of Identity & Place as well as some practitcal tips for working with subjects to put them at ease.