‘Does Not Suggest Death Within 6 Months is Likely to Occur’is photographer, Sean Carroll’s first release in his on going project documenting his father’s acclimatization to having his Incapacity Benefits revoked as a result of the Welfare Reform Bill 2010-12. The images give an insightful glance into the impact of this decision on somebody such as Carroll’s father (Lee) who for the last sixteen years had been declared unfit to work after suffering a Sub-Arachnoid Brain Haemorrhage.
The images portray a grave sense of isolation and lack of control in their subject who appears helpless in light of Parliaments reforms. These impressions are particularly unforgiving in one of the most striking images of the series, which shows Lee perched on his bed. Engulfed by the bedroom walls , Lee looks small in his surroundings while the only light in the photo comes from out of the bedroom windows which are firmly closed.
All images were taken in Lee’s flat, adding to this sense of entrapment and intimacy as we are encouraged to engage within this personal story. Making this series more personal still are the direct snippets of text from a Government issued Questionnaire regarding fitness to work, hand written by Lee. Strategically placed throughout the series the text helps to ground the images, giving context without influencing the reader’s own interpretation.
Although all taken within Lee’s home, Carroll uses natural light from windows to balance his images, with Lee often gazing in the direction of this light source, which is of course ‘the outside world’. This intrusion of sunlight seems to highlight Lee’s exclusion from a world unwilling to understand his disabilities.
On first viewing, this series appears to document Carrolls’father’s hardship and the further burden’s he is suffering due to the reform bill. However, there are also glimmers of hope beneath the layers of bleakness if you’re willing to dig a little. The religious symbols scattered throughout the images give the impression of faith and determination, while one of the most striking images of the series shows Lee from behind, dressed in a white shirt and vibrant braces. His attire suggests not only an acceptance of returning to the world of employment but also an admirable willingness to challenge his own 16 year old perception of being ‘unfit to work’. Even the series title could be considered something to celebrate in a slightly dark way. In one of the extracts from Lee’s questionnaire he writes ‘I am so blessed to have survived and I try not to dwell too much on the negative’ which in a sense, sums up the series Carroll has actualised.
Carroll has created an intimate portrayal of his father’s misfortunes, with a strong personal undercurrent running through each image. The series does not offer a big picture critique of the Welfare Reform Bill 2010-12 but rather a compassionate view from a sons perspective of one, very human, case. The relationship between subject and photographer is obvious, which gives the series an extremely heartfelt overtone, welcoming the reader to share in Lee’s experiences.
‘Does Not Suggest That Death Within 6 Months is Likely to Occur’is available online as a free downloadable ebook or as a hardcopy to order for $8.00. http://www.magcloud.com/browse/issue/349424