The You’re Just Little photographic exhibition reveals the challenges, obstacles and societal assumptions that Dwarf people face on a daily basis. This initial podcast talks about how anger influenced the creation of the artwork, setting the scene for the rest of the series.
Join in the conversation
To talk about the exhibition and the content of this podcast, you can email me at email@example.com, comment below or join in the conversation on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, using the hashtag #yourejustlittle.
Hello, I’m Steph, the curator, creative activist, and artist behind this work.
You’re Just Little was a photographic exhibition that was first shown in October 2018 at Spectrum Cultural Hub in County Durham. The aim of the exhibition was to reveal the challenges, obstacles and societal assumptions that people, like myself, with Dwarfism, face on a daily basis.
The ‘You’re Just Little’ exhibition featured a number of photographs I had taken from my viewpoint of 4ft 4” (133cm). As well as over 40 photographic contributions from the Dwarf community throughout the U.K, U.S.A and Australia. Also challenging the gallery space in terms of hanging the photographs at my own eye-level of approx 45”.
I wanted to channel my anger and show visually, in a neutral, safe environment, the obstacles and attitudes that living with Dwarfism presents. To place and show the average-height, non-disabled visitor what life is like at my height.
The aim of the podcast is to start a constructive and healthy conversation around Dwarfism. To start to undo the centuries of ridicule that my disability has faced. For dwarf people to finally be able to contribute to and shape our own narratives, especially in arts and culture. For me, I want and hope these photos, represent the start of a collective movement.
In each podcast episode, we take a look at one of the photographs from the exhibition and talk about the broader and personal themes that each of these represents. To discuss the impact of what it is like to live in a society that often misrepresents, misunderstands and objectifies Dwarfism, without a second thought.
You may wonder why a photograph of my forehead reflected in a mirror or looking straight at a steering wheel, or a simple packet of crayons, can generate a feeling of anger. However, it is born of a frustration that has grown over the years where my body has had to adapt to and told to accept its surroundings and treatment.
To give voice to, to articulate, to channel my anger and frustration of these experiences. To not only show visually to non-disabled people that I’m not ‘just little’ but to validate the unseen difficulties that dwarf people experience.
It’s having to explain the difficulties faced, repeatedly, yet being blithely dismissed as ‘just little’ by usually well-meaning professionals, family, friends and colleagues who have the power to dictate my access to, my independence in and the acceptance of my body to engage with society.
It’s being told “I’m normal”,yet being laughed at when out in public for the way I was born. It’s having to shop in the children’s section of a shoe shop as an adult, where I feel anything but normal.
In early 2018, after another set of incidents, I was angry, very angry at how I had been treat, yet again, because of my dwarfism and I didn’t, as one good friend told me, ‘become spikey” or bitter. Traditionally, anger is seen as a negative and destructive emotion. But what I’ve come to realise from my own experiences, as I sought to deal with my own feelings of rage, and reflecting on how others have used traumatic events as a stepping stone to better themselves and wider society, is that anger is the best fuel for fighting injustice, to start much-needed conversations and from that, initiate change.
I initiated my own change and started to take control of my own narrative…and anger the from the moment when I took that first photograph when I couldn’t see my reflection in the mirror again in a high-street shop’s toilet – again.
I have often felt alone with these experiences, but did you know that 80% of people with dwarfism are born into average-height families, where there has been no dwarfism before? That there are over 200 medically known forms of dwarfism, with an estimated 7000 people living with some form of dwarfism in the U.K. Yet we are woefully underrepresented in many aspects of society. And face many obstacles to gain access to it as well. We are objectified, vilified and mocked throughout arts, culture and media. Not just in today’s society, but also historically.
I ask you for a second – try and think of a person who has Dwarfism. Do you have someone in mind? Chances are you’ll think of the panto representation of a dwarf, or an actual human being tossed for ‘entertainment’ purposes. Or a mini-me, fantastical one-dimensional figure in a fantasy book or film. Or used as a slur, a label seen as less-than, shot at a foe for their so-called lack of worth attributed to their stature or behaviour.
To give you some perspective, back in 2016, I read the first book that had a Dwarf character in it that wasn’t used as a prop, or wasn’t being made fun of by the main characters and wasn’t some sort fantasy figure with a bad temper. I sobbed as I finished ‘We Are Giants’ by Amber Lee Dodds, a children’s book about a girl with a dwarf mum, realising that I had never before read a story that told the dwarf narrative or had been included as part of a story. It was one of the many catalysts that cumulated in the ‘You’re Just Little’ exhibition.
The first photograph, in that shop, was unwittingly the start of this project and shows our experiences as Dwarves are anything but normal. Not being able to see my own reflection in the mirror, perfectly captures the accessibility and identity issues that people like myself, with restricted growth, face, moving around. Being excluded from environments that non-disabled people take as a given and as a basic right. It’s frustrating, it’s stressful and anxiety-inducing, going about your everyday life being ‘switched on’ to how to fit into or adapt to your surroundings.
As I mentioned earlier, this exhibition and podcast is about starting a conversation about Dwarfism. To raise awareness, give voice and a platform to a group of misunderstood and misrepresented people. The photographs represent the chance for us Dwarf people to tell and shape our own narratives, to tell our stories, to have our experiences reflected back at us and validated – whether on a gallery wall, in a book or a podcast.
The main themes of this exhibition podcast centre around Accessibility, Independence, Identity and Narrative. As with most things, the photographs represent so much more than what is just seen in the frame.
And I invite you to talk about these photos. For the curious, to ask questions. For us Dwarves to vent about and share own experiences. To channel the anger into a constructive means of creating lasting change.
You can do that, and access the other episodes by visiting hellolittlelady.com, by emailing me firstname.lastname@example.org or find the conversations about the exhibition via the hashtag #yourejustlittl on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
Thank you and enjoy.