Steve Brookes- Disability in the Media

Steve Brookes came to talk to us about disability in the media, and how the media portrays disabled people. I found his talk really interesting and insightful. He offered ideas towards the subject that I would have never even considered myself.

Steve Brookes himself is disabled and when talking about the subject you could tell his passion and personal views on what he spoke about. He felt that people with disabilities are used wrongly in the media for ‘sob stories’ and to get sympathy. He posed the idea that we are all disabled somehow, there are things that limit us,some are more major than others but no one is perfect. I had never considered this view before but I completely agree with him, we all are disabled in some way so why is it right for some people to be labelled as disabled and others not.

The talk made me consider how in my own photography I portray people, and whether this is fair to them or their feelings. The use of camera angles can be important, as in media to do with disability, people often used a downward angle and look down on the person, making them seem like the victim. Many people would not want to be portrayed as a victim as their disability is part of their life but it doesn’t define the person they are.

There are many stereotypes in the media – pitiable and pathetic, object of violence and curiosity, sinister, super-cripple (Paralympics), laughable, her/his own worst enemy, a burden, non-sexual, unable to participate. I feel that people shouldn’t be put into stereotype categories as that is unfair and does not consider that people aren’t always like that, many people get on with their life no matter what they are like.

Do you always have to make it a sob story?- the M&S Christmas 2012 advert is an example of where it is not – they included a disabled boy as part of their clothing advert, however, because of the inclusion of this disabled boy into a big group of children, at first look at the advert you don’t spot the boy, showing how disability can be included in media without exploiting them and making it a sob story. The inclusion of the boy in the advert made the news and so therefore gave M&S good publicity and making their brand images stronger and disability friendly, this would be beneficial for the company as well as making disabled people feel involved. Nike and Coco Cola have both done similar things with their advertising, by including disability and looking at it in a positive way. In my own work, when given a brief to do with disability or another subject that can often be portrayed in a ‘sob story’ way, I could consider looking at other ways to portray these people or subject, maybe in a happy way or not focusing on the disability.

Disability in the Media


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