Daisy Wislar ’18, an outspoken advocate for Bowdoin students with disabilities, organized a photography exhibit around a portrait series of eleven Bowdoin students. Set to open in the Lamarche Gallery in David Saul Smith Union on Monday October 3rd, the exhibit is titled I Am: A Conversation about Disability at Bowdoin and Beyond.

These portraits will be accompanied by texts written by these students illustrating their experiences as students with disabilities on campus. The exhibit will be opened to the Bowdoin community with a kick-off event on Monday evening at 7 p.m., followed by a Q&A panel featuring six students with disabilities.

With the sponsorship of the Bowdoin Office of Accommodations and the Good Ideas Fund, Wislar organized the event to highlight the diverse experiences of an identity that she believes is often overlooked in community discussion.

“I really want to create a space where that community can authentically speak about that experience, what it’s like to be disabled on this campus and in doing so create a larger campus conversation,” Wislar said. “When people talk about identity and talk about these intersectional identity issues that come out in a community like this, I really want ability to be included. I think it’s really important that we hold space for ability in that conversation because it impacts so many people here whether you know it or not.” 

In her effort to start the dialogue, Wislar has been vocal about sharing her own experiences as a student with a disability.

“Having a disability affects everything and nothing all at once. On the day-to-day … it’s just my lived experience, it’s just who I am. At the same time it impacts how I navigate this campus, it impacts how I interact with other people so it’s constantly informing everything I do.”

Wislar chose to feature portraits in her exhibit because of their powerful visual quality. Collaborating with classmate and student photographer Jude Marx ’18, the two conducted interviews with each featured student before Marx photographed each portrait. Marx hopes that the individual spirit of each student will come through in each portrait.

“The whole project is about giving visibility to individuals and identities that we don’t really talk about and I think that photos are a really special way of doing that. [They] are a platform for the individuals to say what they want to say and they’ve all done it differently,” said Marx.

Wislar expects that seeing portraits featuring real Bowdoin students will serve as a reminder that disability exists among us, even in places we don’t expect. She hopes the exhibit will counter the narrow and stereotypical portrayal of disability often displayed in the media and provide a more diverse and relatable image.

The exhibit will be on display in the Lamarche Gallery in Smith Union through October 24th.