Portrait of an Invisible Illness10th November 2016
Location: The Royal Photographic Society, Fenton House, 122 Wells Rd, Bath BA2 3AH
This exhibition (throughout November 2016) employs a range of strategies for visualising ME (Myalgic Encephalomyelitis), a debilitating, multi-faceted, but invisible illness that affects over 250,000 people in the UK and hundreds of thousands worldwide. Described by sociologist Neville Millen (2003) as: “A chimera-like medical anomaly, a variant illness entity that like the mythical creature is composed of a complex and mysterious combination of parts which defy a clear description”, the chronically ill ME sufferer experiences invisibility on not one, but four interlinked fronts: physical, social, medical, and political invisibility.
Although photography has often been used to communicate the non-visible, ME has not previously been explored visually in any great depth. Being a complex disease with no visible signs, but rather a collection of symptoms, photography cannot simply record ME’s invisibilities. Instead it requires a more metaphorical approach. Therefore, by employing metaphor, alongside participatory practice with ME sufferers, the artist explores the illnesses’ many layers through a combination of portrait, medical and domestic photographs, textual illness narratives, SenseCam images, and Google Earth maps.