28 August, 2010

stimming photo project idea

(This will be like a million years in the future if I do it, plus there are ethical issues so it might not be possible, but I just thought it was a really good idea so I wanted to share.)

I used to really like to take pictures without flash in dim environments, so that I could do things like make myself have two faces (my ghost pictures). I also liked taking pictures of myself stimming because it looked like I was flying or disappearing. I don’t have much skill but you don’t need it.

I would really like to take pictures of people with developmental disabilities stimming, especially blurry pictures so that the images come off as kind of beautiful and otherworldly. Stimming is always portrayed in a really clinical medicalized context and it’s usually treated as “abnormal” if not outright bad (and it’s usually treated as bad). There are no images of people stimming that portray the people as beautiful. I’d like to take beautiful pictures of stimming for the same reason that people have to take beautiful pictures of queer people, fat people, people with physical disabilities, etc. Mainstream images don’t reflect the actual personalities and feelings of people who are different.

I am really concerned about how to do this though because I don’t want to do the project unless I can include pictures of people who have a range of abilities. People with severe disabilities are the people who are the most vulnerable to being treated horribly for stimming. They are also What Passing People Are Afraid Of when we feel instinctively ashamed about stimming when we’re growing up. Disability is stigmatized and kept out of sight so that people who aren’t obviously disabled are terrified of people who are, and of things that make us look like them. Leaving “those people” out would be hypocritical, and a big loss since some of them are great stimmers.

It would be really easy to take these kinds of pictures of people with more severe disabilities but I guess I’m concerned about making sure the person understands and agrees with the idea of the project and what the project is etc. Lots of people just take pictures of nonverbal people and use them for stuff without asking and I don’t want to do that obviously. I also don't know whether it’s ethical for me to try to recruit people I’m staff for or have been staff for in the past.

I’m not interested in taking pictures that are accurate, I’m interested in taking pictures that make the subject look attractive and cool. I’d like the people in the pictures to pick out the stimming pictures of them that they like the best.


  1. I think that's a really cool idea! I'm not sure how to go about the logistics of getting permission though, but I'm sure it can be done somehow.

  2. I just read your last post and loved it. Oddly enough, I have some pictures up on the net doing what I now recognise as stimming. It was pre-diagnosis. I was spinning, and my partner snapped some pics.


    You can use them if you like, I don't mind. If you need bigger pics, I can probably dig out the originals.

    Unfortunately, my stims these days don't photograph well as stims - I'm into knitting, crochet and spinning (with a spinning wheel) so I don't look like anything special doing it.

  3. My posts don't seem to be appearing, but I'll try one more time. Since iamshadow mentioned that her stimming, like mine, often takes the form of non-sterotypical forms of stimming, I think it would be cool to include just a few of "normal" activities that are actually stimming activities for the indviduals in the picture. I mean if you ever want to display this project on the web or in an actual display it would really make people stop and think about "normalicy" and passing. If you'd like a could send you some pictures of me stimming in both sterytpical and "normalized" ways. Also, I've got a cousin who's currently an MFA student who has done lots of art with her disability- OCD- and would probably have ideas of locals for this type of art. I'm going to send her a link of your blog and she might have some ideas of her own.

  4. I guess stimming might not be the right word for the set of actions I want to portray. Once this girl I worked with (another counselor at camp) said, "I wish my friend [with an intellectual disability] hadn't gone to a special school because they all feed off each other and now she claps her hands when she gets excited and I don't want people to make fun of her." I guess clapping your hands when you get excited isn't technically stimming but it is definitely something that makes a person look disabled. The set of actions I'm interested in is defined from the outside and not the inside, so it may be a self-soothing behavior, something someone does when they're hyper, a reaction to being excited, etc.--the point isn't really how it feels, but just that it is something natural to the person that is stigmatized in society because of how it looks.

    That's why I don't want to use knitting, I mean. I don't want to do a project that is really about stimming in particular--I guess it's more accurate to call it a movement project.

  5. I think this is a great idea and I hope you can do it.

    also, off topic but I really like what you post on your tumblr but I'm afraid of looking like a creep if I 'like' almost every post so sometimes I just don't click 'like' even if I actually like it.

  6. you should like all my posts! I'd feel so good about myself all the time.

  7. Oh, I just read your blog and loved it! I remember your stimming photos from LJ community and I've been thinking about making such photos myself. I really have no idea how I look from the outside. I just postponed it because I don't have a camera and I can't figure out how to make myself stimming in the right moment.

    It would be a brilliant project, I'm sure! These type of movement should be destigmatised.

  8. do you have a macbook? or know someone who has one? so you could just use photobooth