Audio feature about the 'Us and Them' project, exhibited at the Horton Epsom between 1st and 14th December 2023, and travelling to the Science Gallery and various venues thereafter.
Us and them is a collaboration between award-winning portrait and social documentary photographer Emma Brown, disabled artists from Freewheelers Theatre and Media Company, King's College London, and On the Record.
The Freewheelers have co-created portraits exploring visual representations of physical disability in Surrey, past and present, following audio recorded discussions about pose, costume, gesture and identity. The portraits have been created using a traditional Victorian ‘tintype’ technique, which creates a photographic image on a thin sheet of coated glass or metal (glass plates).
The Us and Them artwork has been inspired by reviewing nineteenth-century archive photographs of patients taken on admission to the ‘Epsom Cluster’ of psychiatric hospitals. The hospitals also housed people with learning disabilities, epilepsy and Down’s Syndrome, which were classified in the same way as mental illness at that time.
The new portraits are provocatively paired with the original Victorian photographs, to provoke public conversations about discrimination and how disability is understood, especially through visual representations.This striking new collection of images highlights the diversity of disabled artists, celebrates commonality, and unsettles the differences between ‘Us and Them’.
Us and Them has been supported by Surrey History Centre and with funding from King’s College London. Oral history and audio production support is being provided by On the Record.
Freewheelers are a diverse and creative company of people with disabilities based in Surrey. They work alongside directors, producers, composers, artists and writers, to co-create and produce engaging, thought-provoking, funny, joyous and highly entertaining theatre, dance, film, and music.
For over thirty years, Freewheelers has been challenging perceptions and defying expectations.
Moving image © Steve Rosam