Christopher Voelker

Following a link from the same lead, I came across the work of Voelker. A studio-based photographer, Voelker managed to transcend his disability to become a renowned celebrity portrait photographer in his own right. Although I am not a studio photographer, I can recognise the creativity in some of his work (treatment of light, composition). I particularly like the work he has done specifically on disabled people:

That’s not to say that his other work is of less value, but these portraits have much more power and are less commercial. Often his more surrealist work fragments and deconstructs the body, speaking volumes about the disabled condition:

His black and white images are reminiscent of Man Ray’s nude studies, and the fractured mirror nude is a direct parallel to Duchamp’s Nude Descending a Staircase. His work may not be groundbreaking in artistic circles, but at least he managed to break free of the ‘disabled artist’ label and therefore challenge Davis’ disability paradox.

On the subject of which, in a sort of response to the issue that Davis raised about disabled characters being played in Hollywood by actors who are not disabled (despite there being an abundance of disabled actors), Voelker shot an activist series of disabled actors in protest:

Voelker: “I hope that my legacy will be one of not looking at my disability, but of looking at the tangible works that have come from my dreaming while awake.” Despite being exemplary of everything that people with disabilities can achieve, Voelker sadly became a victim of the digital revolution (where everyone seems to be a photographer), and due to dwindling demand for his services and bleak prospects for the future he took his own life in September 2014. RIP

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