Towards a Scientific Model of Disability

Memory Jar Collection 4

Colour photograph of glass jars on a glass shelf, containing photographs of animals and people.

Colour photograph of a woman's brown hair in two plaits, against a blue vest and cardigan.

46) Silvia's plaits

29 May 2011

My artist friend Silvia says she has been growing and plaiting her hair since she arrived in the UK from California - I'm not quite sure whether it's the price or the quality of British hairdressing, or both, that puts her off! Although she is really a painter, Silvia worked extensively in Hollywood and is expert in creating costumes as well as backdrops. On special occasions she dresses up - the first time I met her (at my friend David's), she was dressed as a very dramatic fairy in green and black. Then the long hair comes in particularly handy, as it can be elaborately dressed.

Soft-focus colour photograph of a black birds legs against a domestic background.

47) Boris's legs

29 May 2011

Boris the rook has lived with Silvia since she found him lying injured in the road a few years ago. He now lives in the house, believing that Silvia is his true mate. This causes many difficulties, particularly during nesting season! I had never realised how incredible birds' legs can be until I met Boris and saw his - Boris looks as if he is wearing incredibly expensive, shiny black lizard-skin boots. Boris prefers Silvia to keep the curtains drawn, so it was impossible to photograph these properly, but I like the way the lack of light has created the look of this photograph (taken, as so many with this project, on my iPhone).

Soft focus colour photograph of a black bird's head against a background of blue and cream.

48) Doris's beak

29 May 2011

Doris the crow also lives with Silvia, after she was taken in injured to the local vet. The vet assumed she would be a companion for Boris, but in fact the two birds are from completely different species and have different needs and diets. Doris thinks of the bathroom as her own particular domain. This makes it rather risky to attempt to use the toilet, as she has an extremely strong beak as well as being both inquisitive and acquisitive. At best, Doris will attempt to steal any jewellery, keys etc that you happen to have about your person. If you happen to be wearing sandals, the experience can be rather more painful!

Colour photograph of a white and dark tabby cat washing itself on a bed, with one tufty paw sticking up in the air.

49) Gobbolino's paw

June 2011

Compare this to the photograph taken in March, when I took the stray cat 'Bob' in off the street. Without needing to spend his days on the pavements, the fur around his feet has grown as long as that of my other long-haired cat, Gif. Three months on, Gobbolino still has a sore on his side, but is otherwise thriving (and indeed appears to be bigger, as well as fatter, than when he arrived!).

Colour photograph of the lower half of a black teenager's face, with braces on his teeth and a scar below his mouth.

50) Seun's face

1 July 2011

My godson Seun is now 14, and showing his age. He is partway through a painful couple of years of dental treatment, which he also finds embarrassing but was prepared to reveal in the cause of art. (He is a particular fan of Chris Ofili). He gained the scar a couple of years ago when he fell off a gate he was sitting on in the local park. (I am still unsure why the council had 'refurbished' the park with metal gates with open, razor-sharp edges.) On the day that the accident happened I had a phone call to say he was at the hospital at around 7pm, and spent the rest of the evening with him, finally helping to hold him down while he was stitched up at around 1am. By this time we had had to travel to the Royal London Hospital, as Newham General didn't have anyone available to do this. Unfortunately the doctor treating him prescribed eye ointment instead of anti-scarring cream, and his GP later refused to prescribe it instead so he has been left with this disfiguring scar. This means he is often called 'scar face' at school and is bullied as a result. Had we pursued a legal case against the council, it could have been treated privately, but as it is Seun will have to continue to suffer as NHS cuts have ruled out this type of cosmetic treatment. Meanwhile surgeons continue to be employed carrying out unnecessary 'anti-ageing' cosmetic procedures.

Colour photograph of a teenage boy's large foot in a lime green and orange football boot and grey sock against a garden bench.

51) Seun's foot

1 July 2011

Seun would much rather show off his new football boots than his face! He has always been very good at football, and in 2007/8 I made a film, England, which combined his love of football with his background as a stateless child who had been unlawfully detained by the immigration authorities for a month the day after his 9th birthday.

Colour photograph of an older woman's tanned bare knees, with long white scars running down them.

52) Mum's knees

3 July 2011

My mother, who is now in her mid-70s, has had both knee joints replaced over the past decade, with more or less success. The second operation, which took place just before one Christmas, was badly done and has left her with a lot of pain and difficulty. She refused to show me her hip scar - her first orthopaedic operation was a hip replacement. However, she partly attributes the fact that in contrast to her knee scars it is virtually invisible to the fact that she paid privately for it! As a former nurse, she was very shocked by the poor care that she received from the NHS. She is embarrassed by the appearance of her knees, but eventually allowed me to persuade her to let me photograph them.

Colour photograph of a woman's hands being held out against a clinical white jacket in the light from a nearby window.

53) Alison's hands

My osteopath Alison Brown has been treating me since 1990, when I experienced severe spinal pain that was only years later diagnosed as a fracture. 21 years on, Alison is known internationally as an osteopathic teacher, but continues to practice several days each week in East London. Alison now treats my hands and feet as well as the symptoms caused by my spinal problems. Usually her treatment is very gentle, helping my body to find better ways of coping with my impairments and thus extending my limits.

Colour photograph of a woman's hands holding and entering information into a blue digital monitor attached to a tube which disappears into her beaded blue top.

54) Joy's blood glucose levels

I met my friend Joy when I made a film about children's book collectors as part of my PhD research in 1994. As a fellow East Ender, I have got to know her well since then, and we have shared many meals as well as adventures. Joy is a professional editor, and has helped me many times over the years with my smallpress publishing company Bettany Press. Joy has lived with Type 1 diabetes since her youth. She has always been extremely competent at measuring her blood sugar levels and self-adminstering the insulin that she needs. However, following complications after unrelated surgery, Joy was recently fitted with an insulin pump which can administer her insulin on a continual basis. Here Joy is inputting her blood sugar level and the estimated value of the food she is about to eat, so that the pump can adjust her insulin dose accordingly.

Colour photograph of a fat white and tabby cat lying on a red, blue and beige rug.

55) Rio's tummy

Rio is a ten-year-old tabby female cat who belonged to my friend Tony's grandmother. After his grandmother died following a long illness, Rio moved temporarily into my office while we looked for a new home for her. Tony's grandmother had dementia, and would have found it difficult to say no to Rio when she asked for food. This left Rio overweight, as well as with a painful allergic skin condition to which the stress of her owner's death had also contributed. A change of diet helped with both, along with steroid and antibiotic treatment.

Colour photograph of a small boy's scarred thumb being held towards the camera.

56) Stanley's thumb

23 July 2011

I met Stanley at the memorial ceremony for my friend Nasa, who died on 24 May of respiratory failure. Nasa had recently been released from hospital, after surgery to fit a feeding tube which had significantly improved her health. Unfortunately, however, the primary care and social care services that she received on an ongoing basis were unable to respond to her changed needs, as well as failing to reinstate the overnight care that she received previously. Nasa was found dead in bed just days after moving home. Stanley very much enjoyed the memorial, and was keen to explore the sound equipment we used as well as to copy the movements of the Bhangra dancers who performed during the afternoon. He was also keen to show off his thumb, which had just had the plaster removed from it at the hospital. No one is quite sure how Stanley hurt it - it was broken as well as cut - as he has quite a high pain threshold and simply went into school with it dripping blood!

Colour photograph of a man's hands gripping a Canon camera against a white striped shirt. One wrist is tattooed.

57) Tim's hands

23 July 2011

Tim Hoy is a professional photographer as well as a London firefighter, and is part of the photography co-operative TPS Photos which he set up to share his skills and equipment with other photographers. I met him through my friend David Morris, as Tim often worked with him, and Tim then took photographs of me in Canning Town for my website. Since David's death, Tim has worked with me to document David's funeral and memorial, and then a picnic at his grave on 29 April, and later my friend Nasa's memorial service. Tim always refuses payment for his work within the community, and makes the resulting photographs available free for reproduction.

Close-up colour photograph of a middle-aged woman staring at the camera in tinted glasses.

58) Karen's eyes

30 July 2011

The first time I met Karen, she was performing a comedy routine at a charity social evening as 'The Wheelchair from Hell'. Since then we have become good friends, and for some years co-Chaired the disability rights organisation Regard together. Karen is a disability equality expert, but has just been made redundant by the NHS as part of the wide-ranging public sector cuts. Over the past 15 years she has trained countless staff in the best way to deliver services to disabled people, as well as advising on how her Primary Care Trust can build and operate new buildings so that they are best fit for purpose. As with many of the cuts, disabled people will suffer particularly badly from the loss of NHS workers like Karen. Karen is a writer and performer in her spare time, so will now be developing her artistic career alongside freelance work as a consultant.

Colour photograph of the head of a golden-coloured short-haired dog with large brown eyes, with a woman's hand resting on her neck.

59) Rosie's eyes

30 July 2011

Rosie is a Staffordshire terrier/lurcher cross, and is training as an assistance dog. She belongs to Karen, who helped to hand-rear her as a puppy when Rosie's mother was rescued by a friend of Karen's. Rosie has a very close relationship with Karen, and is very intelligent. For leisure, the two of them belong to a 'fun' dog agility club, and give displays at various country fairs and festivals over the summer months. Rosie's eyes follow Karen everywhere that she goes.

Colour photograph of a young woman looking down and showing her red-hair, put up with pink clips, against a background of riverside apartments.

60) Ursula's hair

3 August 2011

I first met Ursula when she was working as a PA for my friend David Morris, and became friends with her after David's death. Ursula was a very efficient PA, and in complete contrast to her personal life was slightly scary in work mode. Ursula is also very stylish, and usually has dark red hair. I took this photograph when Ursula cooked a farewell meal before returning to her native Germany, where she will continue to develop her new career as an interpreter of spoken and sign language. Ursula was then living next to the river at Deptford, and produced a four-course meal served on a bench overlooking the Thames as there was no lift to her flat. Both the setting and the food were wonderful.

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Colour photograph of glass jars on a glass shelf, containing photographs of animals and people.

© Ju Gosling aka ju90 2011

Funded by the
wellcome trust

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