and newspapers (The Guardian) and has appeared on the covers of M Magazine Milenio and Perfect. Conscious of the power a public profile can easily afford, Zaman has used such opportunities to draw attention to the lack of representation of disabled bodies in mainstream media and especially within fashion. He recently noted on Instagram that; ‘There are more clothing ranges in the world for dogs than there are for disabled people, despite them making up 22 percent of the UK population’. One in five people in the UK are disabled and Zaman adds; ‘How does the fifth of the population feel hardly being represented at all?’ In 2011, the World Health Organisation’s Report on Disability revealed that 15% of the global population (over 1 billion people) live with some form of disability. Zaman often posts on his Instagram about disability issues and has marked ‘International Awareness Day for Persons with Disabilities’, a global event initiated in the 1990s by the United Nations. But most recently he has founded www. therightfootforward.com as an online platform to advocate for ‘disability-positive conversations’.
Whilst many cultural sectors have embraced the principles of equality, diversity and inclusion (think of the success of the Paralympics, for example) the fashion industry has been noticeably slow to respond. Yet the disabled body is far from absent in the annals of fashion photography. During the 1990s, for example, as the fashion system in Western countries was democratised, in that it infiltrated popular culture and expanded exponentially as a marketplace, there was a flurry of fashion photography in which wheelchairs, crutches and prosthetics were deployed as props. This largely generated images of women in various surreal states of physical disabledness not as subjects in themselves but as objects that spoke of the sexualisation and fetishisation, and ultimately commodification, of femininity. Such images, employing able bodied Amazonian models and evoking the edgy transgression of say Bataille or Bellmer, may have juxtaposed disability and desirability but ultimately did little beyond reinscribing the female body as a site of conquest and pleasure. If women’s bodies, within the Western fashion system, rested on historic clichés of passivity and subjugation, the aesthetics of male beauty proved equally complex to counter in that they depend wholly upon representations of power embodied in physical virility.
The conceptual shift from initial conception to final completion of his film Clinch credits, in the accompanying published conversation, to learning about the ‘difficulties and discrimination’ that Zaman, as someone with a disability, can face on a daily basis. There are no highprofile male models with disabilities unlike female models such as Aimee Mullins, the Paralympian who featured in the collaboration between Alexander McQueen and Nick Knight for the 1998 ‘Fashion-Able’ issue of Dazed & Confused. And those with some degree of visibility, such as R.J. Mitte or Jack Eyers, are primarily successful in other fields, such as acting, fitness and sports. Zaman’s work as a model, and an advocate, may go some way in
M Magazine Milenio, April 2021
Perfect magazine, Summer 2021, Rafael Pavarotti
— Joseph McBrinn joseph mcbrin disability visibility
International Awareness Day for Persons with Disabilities, 3 December 2020 Ryan Zaman/Instagram reframing powerfully prevailing representations of the male body that have long proved difficult to critique and unfix. Further, his collaboration with Clinch suggests fashion photography may offer an unexpected means to think through photography’s history as a scientific tool in recording and codifying the body. A few years ago when the directness of Clinch’s photographs caught the attention of the Irish press they gave him the moniker ‘the snapper’ in reference to his documentary-orientated approach to street fashion (as well as a play on the Dublin vernacular most memorably used in the title of a Roddy Doyle novel). More recently Clinch has been described as a sort of fashion documentarian. Either way these are highly personal and powerful projects that have already stimulated much debate.