Olivier Fermariello’s Je t’aime moi aussi, or I love you too, embodies much of what I hope to capture in my own photographic work this year. By focussing on the naked body, Fermariello has created a series which explores the relationship between disability and sexuality. As members of society who may not be completely independent due to their disability, the photos give the subjects their autonomy back. As viewers, we feel uncomfortable at first; it is as though the actions we are observing are unnatural. Of course, these assumptions are the result of social norms being produced and reproduced in photography and mainstream media and are not the reality in many cases. The discomfort we experience is worth exploring for this reason; Fermariello succeeds in creating work which challenges how we expect disability to be performed by individuals and shows how lived experiences may differ to what we expect of people who are not considered ‘able’.
The compositions Fermariello creates are worthy of analysis. The lack of eye contact from the subjects leaves the impression that they do not know we are here, observing their most intimate, private moments. In the image above, the woman is facing away from the camera, carrying out her morning routine. We feel as though we are intruders; I believe this sensation occurs because it is not something we are used to seeing. The plights of people living with disabilities, from the simplest things such as not being able to reach the sink without a foot stall, go unseen. Meanwhile, photography and mainstream media normalise certain bodies in the bathroom setting; a quick google search only confirms this.
I find this image intriguing, too. The setting feels almost clinical thanks to the neutral colours and negative space, yet the Superman boxers coupled with the arguably pornographic images taped to the wardrobe behind lend themselves to more personalised feeling overall. Whether this is a room in a care facility or the subject’s own house, the dichotomy between clinical and homeliness is clear and married in this image. This emphasises the notion of autonomy mentioned earlier; lived experiences are not linear or completely limited amongst those who are less-able, despite common conceptions.
Perhaps my favourite of the series, Fermariello has embodied the phrase je t’aime moi aussi in this photograph. The woman looks at her lover with desire as they engage on the sofa, whilst the man appears to be looking downwards at her body. Whether they are about to have sex or not, the intent with which they look at one another transcends any ability or perceived lack of. In this moment, they are able. He loves her, and she can love him back.
Fermariello. O. Je t’aime moi aussi. [photo series]. Available at: https://www.lensculture.com/olivier-fermariello?modal=project-4952 [Last accessed 22 August 2018]