Composing Dwarfism: Reframing Short Stature in Contemporary Photography
Ricardo Gil (Denver), Laura Swanson (New York)
This exhibition explored the work of two contemporary dwarf photographers, Ricardo Gil and Laura Swanson, who use different conceptual and technical methods in order to re-frame the composition of the dwarf subject. The dwarf has often been a marginalized subject in the history of contemporary art and photography, labeled as deviant, pathological, freak and “other,” so this exhibition presented the strategies that Gil and Swanson employ in order to resist reductive meanings, and offer alternative interpretations of the dwarf. In their strategies of re-directing the gaze of the viewer, privileging the dwarf subject, and more generally re-framing depictions of the short statured embodiment, I suggest that these artists significantly depart from the stigmatized status surrounding the dwarf’s representations in the work of many non-dwarf photographers. Instead, the viewer will be made more aware of the psychology of the dwarf, as a means to encourage the compassionate involvement of the viewer, as opposed to attracting a historically prevalent morbid and reductive curiosity. If we examine the power and agency held by Gil and Swanson in the photography showcased in this exhibition, viewers may come upon different perceptions of dwarfism that have received scant attention in art history and criticism. We also learn to see the dwarf from both behind and in front of the camera, with full knowledge that they are the ones in control of both sides of its lens.