Saturday, 31 July 2010

The visual image of CE

Be so very careful with it, please

Back at the start of 1988, in Birmingham, England, we launched the first real conductive centre in the UK (whatever fantasist histories you read to the contrary!). The money to pay for this did not grow on trees. It had to be fought for, every penny. In those days this was done entirely through voluntary (charitable) fundraising – and this meant publicity, and publicity meant pictures.

In those days the pictures were mainly in the form of still photographs.

Conflicts of interest

The first problem of course was that anything 'still' is by definition a poor way of catching movement (unless of course you are going for some particular stylistic effect). In the context of motor disorders and Conductive Education, this meant that still photos could be outrightly misleading, snatching and retaining just an instant cross-section from out of a sequence, a period of time. Sports photographers are old hands at all this, both its pluses and its minuses! It was very hard to come up with photographic images that were both meaningful to the process and would have the sort of public appeal that might appeal to potential donors.

Secondly, then, came the second problem. Some still photos so obtined looked extraordinarily appealing. Perhaps they were 'cute', perhaps they showed a child apparently smiling, but actually they were awful. A conductor's typcal response might then be: 'My God, you can't show that, look where his leg is', or 'Look at that posture...' Mine would often be 'That's not a smile...'.

We had a golden rule: vet all photographic images before releasing them for publication (and that went for those of visiting photographers too, including from the press) – and do not let through the technically deleterious.

Intellectually and morally dishonest? Maybe. But we owed it to Conductive Education that its visual reputation should not be mired by images of our own inadequacies.

Still going on

I was reminded of this by an email received this afternoon from a conductor-correspondent, a most indignant email about a series of photographs that she had just seen published on line, recounting one of this summer's summer schools Inter alia, she wrote –

...the photos on the website below are some of the worst I have ever seen. What a mess!!! Why do conductors allow such photos to be posted in a website. It looks like torture to me!

Of course, we do not know the circumstances. Maybe these were simply snapshots that fond parents took of their work without the conductors' permission or even awareness. Maybe theconductors did know and did protest – but nobody took any notice. It remains, however, that here was a situation with no proper control of the CE's public visual image and I see what my corresponded means. What a mess.

Who knows, maybe the overall work of conductors the involved was brilliant,in which the effects both for children and families were correspondingly beneficial.

Let us hope that any such effects last a long time. Let us also recognise that those images might be floating around for years.

This problem was such a routine feature of our work. I know that other places subsequently experienced it too. Yet I have never heard or read it explicitly discussed. Does that matter? Yes, well actually it does.

Every year new people come on stream, organising that or organising that. Why on Earth should they be left to discover all this again for themselves? What are conductors taught about in their initial training to alert them to some of the in-practice experience of Conductive Education over the last twenty or so years. What responsibilities do those currently doing the work have towards the newbies around them? What are some of those grand-sounding organisations actually for?

Wasted opportunities. Conductive Education suffers and its future is the poorer for it.

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