Photos show challenges people with disabilities face

May 6, 2010 (CHICAGO)

Many people with disabilities are often abandoned and ignored by society. Photojournalism captures the reality of how they are perceived in their country.

Roosevelt University's Gage Gallery features walls of photographs by Eugene Richards of people with mental and physical disabilities from several countries.

"It's Mexico, Kosovo, Argentina, Paraguay and one more I guess I can't quite recall," said Michael Ensdorf.

Ensdorf, the associate dean for the college of arts and sciences, and a photography professor, explains the significant of Richards' work.

"He gets close to his subject. He invests himself in his subject...He came to it first as a journalist, as a photojournalist, and then afterward working with Disability Rights International and its activities group that is comprised of journalists, photographers, mental healthcare workers, and they kind of are invited into institutions around the world that are in need of exposure," said Ensdorf.

"The conditions are so horrific that the exposure is absolutely," Ensdorf said.

"If you look through the world in the gallery you'll see a piece by piece sort of sequence that takes you through the spaces and gets you sort of into the environments, and then into the individuals, and so close in the face that you can't look at anything else but their faces at times and into their eyes," said Ensdorf.

Bringing these issues to the public through photography is challenging.

"In a way this type of photography I think is important to see, and when it's combined with a subject such as mental illness and the conditions that mentally ill and mentally disabled people live with in various places of the world, these conditions need to be seen, understood and talked about. The more people that see it, the more connections that are made...the greater the possibility of change," said Ensdorf.

There is a photography book with a DVD called 'A Procession of Them: The Plight of the Mentally Disabled." The exhibit will be at Gage Gallery until May 14th.

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