Jamaican Photography Project

A project by: Dexter

£1,676
pledged of £10,000 target
16%
FUNDED
28
USERS
Shining a light on disabled lives in Jamaica through photography

About Me

Hi, I’m Dexter and I am a photography graduate of Middlesex university on a mission to bring media attention to living with disabilities, and this time around I’m focusing on my home country of Jamaica. I use photography to show the struggles faced by the disabled, but more importantly their strengths. 

WHY JAMAICA?

Disabled people of Jamaica are a relatively unheard voice. There is no real support (financial or otherwise) and certainly nothing to make them feel as if they can make a meaningful contribution to society. For example, the idea that you can go to university with a disability and study just isn’t an opportunity open to young, disabled Jamaicans.

INCREASING VISIBILITY AND OPPORTUNITY

With this project my focus is to increase the visibility of the disabled community in Jamaica but also raise awareness of the fact that similar struggles are faced by people with disabilities worldwide, particularly in the world’s poorest countries.

There are many places globally where there is a lack of support and opportunity, and a huge stigma placed on those with disabilities by the rest of society within those countries.

WHY DOES THIS MATTER TO ME

I was born in March of 1993 in Kingston, Jamaica. It took my mother a couple of months to detect my disability. I couldn’t sit up like other babies. I was officially diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy at six months. My mother’s family was solidly behind me growing up while my father’s family were not. A friend of my mother’s advised her to put me in a home, but she refused and instead gave me all the support I needed as a child.

After my fifth birthday, I was enrolled in a primary school in Kingston. There we had just one room for disabled pupils with no dedicated facilities. It was an unforgettable experience for me. I used to crawl around on my knees to get around both my school and my home. These horrible experiences, I believe, played a vital role in allowing me to develop a strong and determined personality in later years.

In 2002 I migrated to London at the age of nine with my mum and my sister. It took me an additional two years to enrol in a disabled school. Once enrolled, I had never seen so many disabled students in one school, each with wheelchairs and other modern facilities allocated according to their individual needs.

This really opened my eyes to how disabled people can be loved, encouraged and supported by others and each other. I am not a politician, but I will use the project I make in any way that I can to influence people in power here in the UK and in Jamaica to bring about change to the disabled community of Jamaica. This is deeply personal to me, and I am on a mission to make a difference. I need your help to do this.

Untitled - 2016

MY LOVE FOR PHOTOGRAPHY AND THE STORIES IT CAN HELP TELL

My love for Photography was kindled when my aunt bought me a camera at the age of thirteen. I became obsessed with it and looking back I realise this was the moment my career as a photographer started.

During my time on the BA Photography course at Middlesex University, my major project was on disability and the way in which disabled people are under-represented in society. The project was a big success and a landmark for me as it contributed to earning me a First Class BA Honours in Photography.

Untitled - 2016

Help me return to Jamaica and finish the work I started!

For my Master’s Degree I captured the community I grew up in as a child. This project was self-funded in the end, taking just under three weeks. The responses to the photos I took on my trip have been overwhelmingly positive, and I always planned to return and build on the portfolio of work I have undertaken to date.

I can’t believe everything that’s happened in the last year because of Tower Avenue. It’s like I am in a dream. It contributed to me being awarded the Royal Photographic Societies Hood Medal. Read about the medal, and the list of winners here: https://rps.org/about/awards/history-and-recipients/hood-medal/ 

I was also commissioned by Autograph ABP as part of a group show exhibited in their gallery. You can check out a virtual tour of the show here: https://www.galleriesnow.net/shows/care-contagion-community-self-other/  Now I have the opportunity of putting on my first solo show at Orleans House Gallery in Richmond. It’s starting on March 17th and is running for three months. You can check it out here: www.orleanshousegallery.org/events/tower-avenue/

Kamahl – 2021 – From the Care | Contagion | Community series

Andre – 2020 – From my Tower Avenue project

WHY Do I NEED YOUR HELP?

I need to travel to Jamaica with my support worker to take photographs of people living there, in their own environments.

This project is already in motion. I have match funding from Autograph of up to £1000 towards travel, as well as £500 from my previously unsuccessful campaign.

However, the costs involved are still very high. To deliver this project to its full potential I will need to cover my personal access costs such as travel and accommodation for both myself and support worker, as well as a budget laptop to back up my images, food allowance, small cash donations for individual subjects, and insurance.

MY PLAN...

While in Jamaica, I will take portrait photographs of disabled people in Kingston with the objective of telling the story of their lives, the poverty faced and the challenges they encounter every day as a result of their disabilities.

Over two weeks I aim to visit three communities. In order to do this properly I need the help of my support worker. I want to interview my subjects as well and get to know a little bit about their lives as I’m shooting, so I can write about their stories when I publish a book of the project. In order to ensure my communication and time is best spent, my support worker is key.

The minimum I need to bring this project to life is £7000.

If I hit my top target...

I know this figure is high – but I have put this together with careful consideration over the last 12 months. Any funds I do not raise on this page I will be applying for through various councils to make up the difference.

The more I raise the more time I can spend in Jamaica with a support worker, and the more locations and people I can shoot, the higher my turnover will be, leading to a larger project.

  Javonnie – 2020 –  From my Tower Avenue project

WHAT YOU GET AS A THANK YOU FOR YOUR DONATION

Please check out the right-hand side of the page for more information about my rewards. Apart from these, the main reward and satisfaction comes from knowing that you are helping to give people who face a lot of hardship a voice - even though you don’t know them personally.

HELP ME SPREAD THE WORD AND A THANK YOU FOR ANY SUPPORT YOU CAN PROVIDE!

If you can’t donate, you can still play an important role in helping me turn my project into a reality by sharing a link to my crowdfunding page with as many people as possible!

I will be sharing updates of my progress with this project on my page and with my donors.

Thank you so much,

Dexter McLean

FIND OUT MORE ABOUT MY PHOTOGRAPHY

Keep up to date with me and my plans on my social media

WHAT OTHERS SAY ABOUT MY PHOTOGRAPHY

"Every so often you come across a photographer with a truly unique voice. A photographer who's own personal experience means he can tell a story in a way nobody else can. Dexter McLean is one of those photographers. I've seen his work - it's strong, insightful and at times confrontational.

I know from personal experience that it’s not easy working in the world of photography with a disability. People are quick to judge what you can and cannot do based on their opinions. Dexter has his own challenges in life and has overcome a great deal of challenges - but when it comes to photography - his work should be judged on its own merits and in my opinion, is great and shows huge potential." - Giles Duley, Photographer

"Dexter is a remarkable student who has shown such a determination and perseverance that he has managed to achieve amazing things in his photography. His sensitivity to his subjects and his deft handling of the photographic process set him apart from many of his contemporaries. I hope Dexter can raise the money necessary for his project and that he can take his photography even further. I wish him all the luck in the world." - Steven Barritt, Lecturer - Photography, Middlesex University London (Former Tutor)