Dexter McLean


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.

ABOUT THE commission

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.

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"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






On Photographer and Activist Dexter McLean

Artist and educator Dave Lewis reflects on Dexter McLean's new commission for Autograph, considering politics of representation, disability and the black body.

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Photography and Parity: In Conversation with Dexter McLean

Artist Dexter McLean speaks with Autograph's director Mark Sealy about identity, community and representations of disabled people in the twenty-first century.

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about the artist

Dexter McLean

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.

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part of the project

Care | Contagion | Community — Self & Other

Initiated during the first months of lockdown in 2020, Autograph commissioned ten UK-based creative practitioners to create new work in response to the wider contexts of the Covid-19 crisis.

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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.

Artist: 9) Dexter McLean. Photograph by William Gillingham-Sutton.

Part of the project: 10) Aida Silvestri, A Great Leveller [detail], 2020. From the commission Contagion: Colour on the Front Line. © and courtesy the artist.

Discover more: 11) Exhibition at Autograph. Photograph by Zoë Maxwell. 12) Cover of Autograph's new anthology Care | Contagion | Community — Self & Other. 13) Aida Silvestri, Tea [detail], from the commission Contagion: Colour on the Front Line, 2020. © and courtesy the artist. 14) Work from Poulomi Desai's commission Our cultures are the portals - the gateways between one world and the next [detail], 2020. © and courtesy the artist.