Hi, my name is Dexter McLean and I am a photography student on a mission to change the public perception of disability in Jamaica. I want to use photography to show the struggles faced by the disabled people who live there but also their strengths.
The disabled people of Jamaica are a relatively unheard voice. There is no real support (financial or otherwise) and certainly nothing to make them believe they can still achieve things in life or 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, I hope 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 elsewhere too, 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 THIS PROJECT MATTERS TO ME PERSONALLY
I was born on 23 March 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 then officially diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy at the age of 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.
I migrated to London at the age of nine in 2002. 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 disabilities.
This really opened my eyes to how disabled people can be loved, encouraged and supported by others and by each other.
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 I believe this was the moment when 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.
Having achieved this success, I would like to focus my Masters on the theme of disability too and I hope my photographic project in Jamaica will contribute to this. I want to take my photography to a more advanced level and to use different perspectives and approaches. More generally, I hope to show the need to improve the overall visibility and reputation of disabled people in the media around the world.
If I am not able to raise the funds ahead of starting my Masters in January 2019 (I am aware the timeline is tight!), it is still my intention to carry out this project but it will probably be towards the end of 2019/start of 2020. It is a passion of mine and I am determined to deliver it one way or another!
WHY I NEED YOUR HELP
To deliver my project, I will need to travel to Jamaica with my support worker to take photographs of the disabled people who live there, in their own environments. This requires money, so I am hoping some kind donors will enable me to bring my project to life.
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. I also hope to document the neighbourhood I grew up in Kingston as a part of the project.
My BUDGET BREAKDOWN
Here is an overview of what I hope to raise and how I will spend any generous donations:
A large proportion of what I hope to raise will go towards travel to Jamaica and around Kingston while we are out there. It will also go towards the cost of living while I complete the project.
The minimum I need to bring this project to life is £3,400. If I raise this amount, I can take digital photographs. This breaks down as follows:
- Flights to Jamaica for me and my support worker = £1,400
- Transportation within Kingston = £500
- Upkeep of me and my support worker over the fortnight we are there = £500
- Printing = £1000
If I hit my top target...
If I am lucky enough to raise the full £6,600, this will enable me to fund photographic materials and shoot with a medium format camera. The additional amount would go towards the following:
- 100 Black and White films at £5 each = £500
- 100 Colour films at £7 each = £700
- Film development at £10 for per film = £2000
WHAT YOU GET AS A THANK YOU FOR YOUR DONATION
Please check out the right hand side of my 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.
POTENTIAL PROJECT CHALLENGES
One of the most obvious challenges I will face is finding the money necessary for me to travel with my support worker to Jamaica and spend up to 2 weeks on location.
Another challenge will be establishing contacts with some of the disabled schools in Kingston, Jamaica. Currently, I am in contact with one such school and hope to be able to work with them.
I am also in the process of identifying charities who specialise in working with the disabled community in Jamaica. I hope that they may also play an important role in facilitating access to the disabled community and more specifically to those willing to share their story.
In the event I don’t hear back from disabled schools or charities, my intention is still to go out to Jamaica and establish relationships with the disabled community on my own and through my own personal connections. This project means a huge amount to me personally and I believe what I hope to achieve is extremely important for those with disabilities, so I am confident that even if I have to rely solely on my own drive and determination, I can make this project a success.
HELP ME SPREAD THE WORD AND A THANK YOU FOR ANY SUPPORT YOU CAN PROVIDE!
Even 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.
FIND OUT MORE ABOUT MY PHOTOGRAPHY
Keep up to date with my progress
I will be updating everyone on my campaign as it progresses. To find out more about this project and me as a photographer, you can go to:
Instagram - www.instagram.com/dextermcleanphotography/
Twitter - https://twitter.com/Dextphotography
Facebook - www.facebook.com/dextermcleanphotography
LinkedIn - www.linkedin.com/in/dexter-mclean-10160b148/
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 very talented photographer with an incredible drive. His disability has never held him back - quite the opposite - he is the first in his family to get a university degree (achieving a first, BA Photography) and is now continuing his studies doing a Masters in Photography. For his Jamaica trip he will need financial support and I sincerely hope the Go-Fund-Me appeal will be a success so he can fulfil his photographic project there." - Eva Vermandel, Lecturer - Photography, Middlesex University London (Former Tutor)
"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)