This is Me
More London, Tower Bridge
There are some remarkable images in This is Me, an outdoor exhibition of winning photographs from Mencap’s annual competition, Snap.
Displayed on two-metre cubes, each picture was taken by, or features, someone with a learning disability. Together they offer a unique perspective on learning disability that conveys a sense of being both ordinary and extraordinary at the same time.
I was impressed by Stephen Faber’s Strange Fish, an underwater shot of his friend, Adrian, captured using a disposable camera. Proof, if need be, that you don’t need fancy equipment to produce a fantastic image.
The beauty of this photography is its simplicity. You don’t have to be particularly artistic to produce a satisfying image – clicking a shutter button is something nearly everyone can do, irrespective of the severity of physical or learning disabilities. Glen Singh’s memorable image, It’s Curry Time!, shows him buying herbs for an independent living cookery course. It’s a simple but striking image.
But this is not just about art; the exhibition’s aim is to increase awareness and understanding of learning disability. Too often the lives of people with a learning disability are ghettoised. This exhibition succeeds in bringing them out into the open.
Broods of tourists stopped to look at the images. I’ve no idea what social care is like in other countries, but these foreign sightseers seemed genuinely interested in the portraits of the lives of people with a learning disability in the UK.
There will be cynics who say this show is a marketing stunt; just something to promote Mencap as a charity.
But on the frosty morning I visited it, I found these images somewhat warming.
It’s about an important part of culture – in the broadest sense of the word – in this country. It sends out a message about respecting and valuing people with learning disabilities.
Mark Drinkwater is a community worker in Southwark, south London
This is Me is at Birmingham, Chamberlain Square, until 28 February and Manchester, Piccadilly Gardens, from 1 March to 4 April