A photographic platform for learning disability

Had to share these images from a forthcoming exhibition created with people who have learning disabilities.

The show, The Girl With The Heart Shaped Hands, opens on Tuesday March 20th and has been organised by learning disability charity Outreach 3Way. The aim is to improve the mainstream representation of the 1m or so people in the UK with learning disabilities and reflect the personalities of each participant.

The eponymous girl of the show’s title is 38-year-old Samantha Wheeler who lives in Crawley and uses Outreach 3Way’s day centre.

Samantha Wheeler , whose pose lends itself to the title of the art exhibition

The images were taken by photographer Maria-Aurelia Riese who says she hopes the pieces “act as a gentle way of building understanding”: “There is a natural human reaction to feel awkward around those who look and behave differently from what we are used to. Once you really see someone for who they are that melts away. I very much hope this exhibition has that effect.”

Tom Ogle, also featured in the new art show

Participants in the exhibition submitted mini-profiles of themselves, to show the person behind the photo. Tom, 43, above, for example, enjoys “sports, drama, swimming, bicycle riding, listening to my music, walking into town and eating out” and is proud of his drama work. His dream for the future is to do more drama and “get married to my girlfriend.”

Portait of Matthew Dawson

The girl with the heart-shaped hands runs from 20th March to 1st April at Chichester’s Oxmarket Centre Of Arts. You can find out more about the free exhibition here or on the website for learning disability charity Dimensions, which Outreach 3 Way is part of.

About Saba Salman

Saba Salman is a social affairs journalist and commissioning editor who writes regularly for The Guardian. Saba is a trustee of the charity Sibs, which supports siblings of disabled children and adults, and an RSA fellow. She is a former Evening Standard local government and social affairs correspondent.
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