Examinations

The ‘examinations’ in this series are based on an interest in the qualities of empathy and detachment that are present in both the photographic and medical gaze. Read more

Early on in my collaboration with Tim Andrews, who was diagnosed with Parkinsons in 2005, he said “I am quite happy with this examination of my condition.” He was referring not to medical examinations, of which he has undergone many, but to the process of being photographed.

The photographs in this project constitute momentary examinations, social and psychological, rather than clinical. They are created from a mix of planned and improvised acts. They reflect my interest in the relationship between photography and pathology, and Tim’s curiosity about photographic subjectivity.

These images aim to do more than to document an illness. They work with ideas of stillness and movement, ease and disease, limitation and liberation. The poses and performances are stagings of different strategies – some rebellious, some acquiescent –in living with Parkinson’s.

Medicine and photography have intricately weaved histories. I am interested in the parallels between the medical gaze and the photographic gaze, in developing links between these different relations of looking. Concepts of detachment and empathy in the relationship between doctor and patient are echoed in the relationship between photographer and subject. Modern medicine is founded on an increasingly technological gaze, of which imaging is a critical part in the diagnosis, classification and management of illness.

“I was driving on the M20 and I suddenly felt out of control and so l tried to break and then to accelerate but nothing seemed to work. I went to my doctor and he referred me for CBT. The therapist explained that my life was made up of a pile of cardboard boxes – family, work, finances, marriage – and that on that day on the M20 the pile of boxes hit the ceiling and had nowhere else to go. I had a course of therapy and it seemed to help but what I did not realize then was that I had Parkinson’s.” (Tim, Dec 2010).

These examinations aim to resist obvious classifications and to play on different ways of looking. The box, borrowed from the therapist’s story, becomes a strategy for exploring  the constraining and liberating elements of Tim’s Parkinson’s.

“For the first few years I didn’t take the drugs. I felt OK but others felt like they were losing me. I became very introverted and functioned very much in my own world. So I started to take the drugs – as much for other people as for myself – and it was like I had become superman. That was almost as difficult for people to adjust to as the original diagnosis. It was around that time when I began responding to ads for photographer’s models.”

 

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