There are around 1.5 million people in the UK with a learning disability and 700,000 with autism. Photographer Polly Braden has spent two years working with just a few who are supported by MacIntyre, a charity that provides 1,500 children and adults with learning, support and care.
Braden’s photographs capture the everyday moments and milestones that organisations like MacIntyre help to make possible. The subject is complex but the aim is simple; to highlight the everyday interactions that enable life-changing experiences.
“Going out was very difficult for Jake”, said Ian, a support worker. “He found it frustrating not being able to tell staff what he wanted or how he felt. He would kick or hit out in frustration. Sometimes he would show how he was feeling by breaking or throwing things. Picture cards helped him to express himself. Today things are very different and Jake makes regular trips.”
“We take for granted the countless interactions that enrich our lives”, said Polly. “From the friendly chat at the supermarket checkout, to that encouraging smile or cup of tea from a work colleague when you’re having a bad day, these interactions can have a big impact on our wellbeing. For the 1.5 million people in the UK with a learning disability, and 700,000 with autism, these interactions are even more fundamental to their quality of life.”
“In these intimate photos, Polly Braden captures the inner lives of people with differences and disabilities”, said Andrew Solomon, author of Far From the Tree. “She sees their dignity and their sometime pathos; their humor and their disappointment; their optimism and their ability to love. Above all, she documents their intense individuality, and makes you see each one as an independent being. This is not a portrait of disability, but a series of portraits of people with disabilities. It is achieved with clarity, respect, and wit.”
Great Interactions: life with learning disabilities and autism
in partnership with the MacIntyre Charity
27 February – 10 April, National Media Museum, Bradford.