The story of the two photos is now so widely known that I won't go into detail. For those who don't know, it involves a school photograph, a class of kids one of which was a boy with a disability and exclusion. As a result of the initial photograph going viral, a second one was taken. The second photo has been much praised as an example of inclusion. I am about to go absolutely public and say I dislike the second one almost as much as the first one ... take a look at the two pictures:
In the first the young boy was clearly set apart, was clearly leaning in trying to get as close to his classmates as possible. It is an ugly picture no doubt.
In the second picture the young man is in the front row, on the far right, in the striped sweater, beside the teacher. Here he has been taken out of his chair and placed on the seat.
The only thing I will agree with is that the second picture looks better than the first.
But the second picture does something worse. It gives him the message that he, as he isn't, is welcome, and that he, as he is, isn't welcome and should be excluded.
I have been reading about how we perceive 'diversity' and 'difference' in society. I read recently that those who welcome diversity are often the same people who loathe difference. That statement is reified by these pictures. Why could this young man not have been included, wheelchair and all, in a picture? I am not a photographer - I'm hardly even qualified to be considered a 'picture taker' but I am clever enough to figure out a variety of different ways for this picture to have been taken where he could have been involved and included in his wheelchair.
I wonder if he is learning something here ... that his WHEELCHAIR is the problem. It isn't, of course, it's the limited imagination of those involved ... or, more likely, the unwillingness to be imaginative, of the adults in the picture and behind the camera. However, he may begin to think - "if I am in my wheelchair, I get excluded. I need to be less 'different' in order to be fully accepted and welcomed."
My view will not be a common one, my view may even be offensive to some ... perhaps even this boy and his family. However, as the picture was made public I believe I have a right to make commentary.
The first picture is obviously bad.
The second picture is subtly worse.
A bad resolution to a problem that should have never, in a just and kind world, been.
oh and ...
I just realized something and I want to add it in here kind of as an addendum to what I've written thus far: Hey wait a minute! I am fat. I am in a wheelchair. I have also written a lot of books and done a lot of lectures. As a result I often have the request to have my picture taken with a group. Once in fact with a group of students in a DSW class at a college near me. Not once did I sit off to the side as the group huddled together away from me. NOT FRIGGING ONCE! Every picture of me with a group is a picture of me WITH a group. It isn't FREAKING rocket science. I have read so many comments wondering how the picture could have been taken in a way that included him naturally in his wheelchair. REALLY?? In all the years I've had pictures taken of me in my wheelchair that question has never been asked ... not ONCE.