Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Images From Stories and Life: A Photographic Interpretation of Disability
by DeRidder, Mary Frances Dittmer, Ph.D., Pacifica Graduate Institute, 2013, 164; 3606097
Abstract (Summary)

One in six Americans has some form of physical disability, yet few photographs of people with visible disabilities appear in the media or in photographic artistic venues. Of the photographic imagery that does exist, much of it treats disability in stereotypical ways that acts to marginalize and stereotype those with disabilities. In response to this hegemony this dissertation argues for a new style of disability photography called the `personal mythic style,' and brings this style into production. This dissertation aims to honor disability as a unique form of embodiment and to promote cultural acceptance of those with disabilities.

To do this, I explored disability imagery from the past, including prephotographic imagery from mythology as well as predominant photographic trends and techniques used to create disability imagery. I argue that in the past, photographic images of people with disabilities focused on the impairment or the limitations caused by the impairment, which often led to stereotypic and victimizing images of people with disabilities. I argued that the depth psychological ideas of C. G. Jung and James Hillman used as a framework for disability photography results in less hegemonic disability imagery. The first idea from depth psychology is that the psyche is real, conscious and unconscious, present and operative in all human experience. The second idea is that psyche needs to be listened and attended to, and the third idea is that psyche is an unfolding process involving dialectical and collaborative experiences.

The method involved using symbolic imagery from stories, myths, and other narratives, which participants of the study and subjects of the photographs identified as meaningful and empowering to their experience of disability. These images were found and photographed in the environment and combined with a portrait of the person into a composite artistic photograph. The collaboratively created final composite images present a glimpse of the ever-deepening imagination disability calls forth.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Grillo, Laura
Commitee: Angelini, Raymond, Pernet, Henry
School: Pacifica Graduate Institute
Department: Mythological Studies
School Location: United States -- California
Source: DAI-B 75/04(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Social psychology, Personality psychology
Keywords: Depth psychology, Disability, Fairy tale, Image, Mythology
Publication Number: 3606097
ISBN: 978-1-303-63127-6
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