For our commissioning project Care | Contagion | Community — Self & Other, Dexter McLean reflects on the impact Covid-19 has had on the community that surrounds him in his day-to-day life.
Dexter McLean is a UK-based artist whose practice is concerned with representation of black and disabled communities. Drawing from his own lived experiences he creates photographic portraits that emphasise the challenges and societal myths disabled people face in contemporary society.
Autograph commissioned McLean to create new work in response to the wider context of the Covid-19 pandemic for our project Care | Contagion | Community — Self & Other. Focusing his lens on his closest family and friends, including those caring for him, McLean created Untitled (2020) - a series of portraits highlighting the value of these relationships during such unprecedented times. This new work also speaks directly to ideas of exposure and protection in a precarious climate where Black, Caribbean and Asian communities have been disproportionately affected by Covid-19.
To contextualise this new artist commission Autograph invited artist and educator Dave Lewis to reflect on McLean’s new series of portraits considering politics of representation, disability and the black body. This short essay is published alongside an in-conversation between the artist and Autograph's director, Mark Sealy.
On Photographer and Activist Dexter McLean
Read artist and educator Dave Lewis's response to McLean's commission
Photography and Parity: In Conversation with Dexter McLean
Autograph's director Mark Sealy speaks with the artist
"Covid made me extra cautious of what I’m doing and who I’m around. It has slowed the progress of accomplishing more things this year" — Kinsley
Dexter McLean (born 1993, Kingston, Jamaica) moved to the United Kingdom when he was nine. Diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy as a child, McLean’s documentary and portrait photography is concerned with addressing fundamental flaws in the representations of the disabled community in mainstream media and elsewhere.
In 2021 he self-published his first monograph Tower Avenue revisiting the community around Olympic Gardens, Jamaica where he spent his childhood. Inspired by a sense of togetherness and the importance of familial networks, this ongoing project features black and white photographic portraits of intergenerational constituency of individuals living in the local area. His long-term ambition is to create a collective portrait documenting the disabled community in Jamaica.
McLean was the first person in his family to attend university, graduating with a Masters degree in Photography from Middlesex University in 2020. His work was shortlisted for the Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize at the National Portrait Gallery 2016. McLean is currently part of the Shape Arts Transforming Leadership Programme in partnership with Autograph. He lives and works in London.
You can follow the artist on Instagram and see more work on his website.
Initiated during the first months of lockdown in 2020, Autograph has commissioned a constituency of ten UK-based creative practitioners in our immediate artistic community to create an open-ended visual arts project in response to the current Covid-19 pandemic.
Working with photography, film and lens-based media, Autograph’s curatorial team Mark Sealy, Renée Mussai and Bindi Vora have been in close dialogue with each artist to produce these new bodies of work. The artist commissions reflect Autograph’s long-standing work advocating for photography and film to address visual politics of rights, race and representation.
Care | Contagion | Community — Self & Other will be presented as a two-part group exhibition at Autograph's gallery in Shoreditch, London, from autumn 2021 through to spring 2022.
Our senior curator Renée Mussai introduces the new artist commissions in a curatorial essay One (Pandemic) Year On...
Read the introduction to the Care | Contagion | Community project
The Care | Contagion | Community — Self & Other exhibitions are now in development
Purchase Dexter McLean's photography book Tower Avenue in Autograph's shop
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Image captions: Works from Dexter McLean's commission Untitled, 2020, Archival giclée prints, each 12 x 16 inches. © and courtesy the artist. Commissioned by Autograph for for Care | Contagion | Community — Self & Other: 1) Kamahl [detail], 2020. 2) Kinsley, 2020. 3) Kymarley, 2020. 4) Keenan, 2020. 5) Danielle, 2020. 6) Tyrone, 2020. 7) Michelle, 2020. 8) Kamahl, 2020.
Other page images: 9) Dexter McLean. Photograph by William Gillingham-Sutton.