Cordelia // ©Leia Ankers
The Story behind the Portrait
This portrait from my series ‘The Same As You’ was instigated and informed from having a disability myself as I was diagnosed with cerebral palsy at age 3. Growing up I spent a lot of time at home due to yearly operations from the ages of 4 to 16. When I hit my teens, this had a substantial impact; I felt quite secluded when I began secondary school as each year I would be off school for a long period of time after my operations.
I discovered photography in these years and used it as a way of having fun and coping whilst I was at home, seeing from afar, other teenagers leading their lives. I basically withstood the enforced loneliness in these teen years through taking photographs of my family and objects around the house. I’d push myself around in my wheelchair, excited each day with finding new things to photograph around the family home. My interest and fascination in photography can be traced back to this time in my life.
These personal differences from a young age introduced me to the experience of stigma, of being the ‘Other’ and as I got older I decided I wanted to take this into my photographic work. I wanted to change the way that people with dual sensory impairment and additional disabilities are perceived by society. This is how ‘The Same As You’ began, my aim to represent the perception of disability and to raise awareness.
I met Cordelia through Birgit who is a friend of my Mums. Birgit is Cordelia’s carer and as a result of their closeness and bond, I was also able to build a connection and relationship with her. Cordelia is blind in one eye with limited sight in her other one, she is deaf and has cerebral palsy. Her ability to move anywhere herself and connect with others is important to her; if she is interested, she uses self-initiative to wheel herself in her wheelchair to where she wants. Cordelia’s independence is easiest achieved in water as she can move alone without the support of her wheelchair or carers. She appreciates the sensory experience of water being poured onto her hands and intensely watches it fall between her fingers. The hydro pool is Cordelia’s place of freedom and this is the reason why her portrait took place there; it portrays her personality and allows her to be seen how she wants to be.
In the portrait, Cordelia was not staring at the camera or me but was looking at my Mum who was sat in front of me on the floor. My mum has a way with people and has taught me a lot growing up about the beauty of meeting new people, what we can learn about ourselves and others through having a conversation. We meet people for a reason, a season or a lifetime and in this case, meeting Cordelia and Birgit will be an enduring relationship for me.
I was very shy growing up and the thought of conversations used to terrify me until I had a camera in my hands and this mental block disappeared, almost like magic. Looking back now, I’m incredibly thankful for photography as it helped me during a frustrating period of time in my life and essentially find my purpose. This series will always have a special place within my heart and I will forever be grateful as it guided me in finding confidence and acceptance within myself. Aspects that at one time I thought I would never experience.
These personal differences from a young age introduced me to the experience of stigma, of being the ‘other’ and as I got older I decided I wanted to take this into my photographic work. I wanted to change the way that people with dual sensory impairment and additional disabilities are perceived by society.
Leia Ankers is a British documentary photographer and co-founder of Images That Resonate. Since a young age, Leia has been fascinated by seeing what lay behind the curtain and her photographic interest lay in a curiosity of the unknown. Leia is drawn to uncovering locations and people that can normally be seen as inaccessible. Stories of beautiful lives were discovered in meeting the individuals, normally unseen by many in society, in her series The Same As You.
Leia has exhibited and published work across the UK and recently selected for Shutter Hub YEARBOOK 100 publication printed by Newspaper Club. She is the winner of APHE Photomeet Bursary Award and nominated Highly Commended for the BenQ Yearbook Award. Leia recently was interviewed by Arts Culture, offering a personal insight into her photography practice.
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