Is it because we’re squeamish about the idea of disabled people having sex or even having sexual desires? This is exactly the notion that Jes Sachse, a 25-year-old Canadian college student and her friend and photographer, Holly Norris are challenging.
The pair teamed up to recreate 13 of American Apparel’s overtly sexualised advertising campaigns. The series of images show Jes, who has a rare genetic condition known as Freeman-Sheldon syndrome, posing in her undies, several leotards and topless in green running shorts. There’s even an orgasm face.
In a statement on the photographers website, Holly Norris states:
“American Able” intends to, through spoof, reveal the ways in which women with disabilities are made invisible in advertising and mass media. I chose American Apparel not just for their notable style, but also for their claims that many of their models are just ‘every day’ women who are employees, friends and fans of the company. However, these women fit particular body types. Their campaigns are highly sexualized and feature women who are generally thin, and who appear to be able-bodied. Women with disabilities go unrepresented, not only in American Apparel advertising, but also in most of popular culture… In a society where sexuality is created and performed over and over within popular culture, the invisibility of women with disabilities in many ways denies their sexuality, particularly within a public context.”
The photos of Jes’s unique facial features, curved spine and uneven legs (her right leg is a bit shorter than her left) result in an amazing and empowering message to advertisers. One that shouts; bring us diversity and body shapes of all shapes and sizes. Incidentally, American Apparel gave permission for the pair to reference their imagery and display the images publicly.
The images were showed on over 270 digital screens in 50 public transport stations in Toronto in May 2010 and will also be included in the 2011 edition of the women’s health book, Our Bodies, Ourselves.