Running for a brief duration – merely a week – at Stills Centre for Photography, is an exhibition by fashion and portrait photographer Rankin. Founder of Dazed and Confused magazine and renowned for his work with GQ, Vogue, Marie Claire as well as his portrait works depicting everyone from David Bowie to Elizabeth II; Rankin’s works are stories presented in visual form.
The Stills exhibition showcases a partnership between Standard Life UK and Endometriosis UK. The title, Beyond the Invisible, speaks to its content. The show is made up of portraits of women, all of whom are living with endometriosis; a condition which is often unheard of and challenging to diagnose. It is a complex disease affecting every woman differently and causes cells similar to the ones in the lining of the womb to grow elsewhere in the body. According to the statistics explored within the show, 1.5 million women in the UK endure life with the painful symptoms.
The exhibition is a highly immersive exploration of the lives of the featured women; visitors are presented with an iPad and optional headphones, which they must carry round with them and hold up to the portraits hanging on the wall. What initially appear to be bold, colourful back-dropped still portraits, spring to life once the iPad is held up and a film depicting the subject talking begins to play on the small screen. Stories of struggle, of physical pain, workplace challenges and emotional hurdles fill the room, with one woman stating ”this illness makes me feel invisible”. The general consensus throughout the stories is that there needs to be more education and awareness throughout institutions, both within educational frameworks and workplaces, as people need to “know that pain is not normal”. Through having to actively hold the iPad to each portrait, in order to listen to the experience of each women within the photographs, the viewer is forced into a highly engaged position through their active body language alone. This engagement is heightened through the statistics boldly lining the gallery walls.
Yet despite the challenges faced by each women, there is also an incredible amount of hope, inspiration and positive thinking. As journalist and broadcaster Emma Barnett, who is also living with the condition, states, “I do think by talking about it, women come and share their stories”. The strength of this exhibition lies not only in the bravery of each woman; in discussion of her endometriosis journey, Shazia Ginai states, “I think women who suffer from this condition are warriors”. The strengths go further and also lie in the collaborations and partnerships formed for the exhibition; through Standard Life UK pairing up with Endometriosis UK, awareness and education of the condition will definitely expand as a result.