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Member Exhibition: Paul Wenham-Clarke - Our Human Condition

18 December 2019

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A photographic insight into the intimate lives of siblings challenged by a genetic condition, who are separate and yet deeply intertwined.



There are thought to be around 6000 genetic conditions, spread throughout the population, most of the time hidden in our genes, undetected. This project explores the lives and relationships of siblings in which one or more has such a genetic condition. We learn how the siblings’ lives are different and yet deeply intertwined. The human condition is defined as the positive or negative aspects of being human, such as birth, growth, reproduction, love and death. The people involved talk about how their relationship has worked and changed through their lives. The images and stories reveal how the families are very proud of who they are and their worth to wider society. They have a power to encourage empathy and promote humanity, as Jenna Graham says about her sister, “If more people spent time with someone like Lauren, the world would be a better place”.


Background Details

Paul Wenham-Clarke has spent two years exploring the lives of families across the UK investigating how they cope with varying degrees of disability, investigating their struggles, goals and motivations. In recent years science has made big strides in understanding the human genome and these potentially will revolutionise the treatment of people with genetic conditions. This exhibition represents a snapshot of society and our attitudes towards disability, in a time that is on the cusp of a wave of change. The stories cover familiar conditions such as Down’s Syndrome to very rare conditions such DOORs with only six cases in the UK. One of the families whose son Awstin has Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy are taking part in the first human trials as a result of a recent medical breakthrough.


Hattie who has Down’s Syndrome said whilst Paul was photographing her “I feel rich and famous.” Her sister Charlotte asked, “What would you buy if you were rich and famous?” Hattie replied “A face like yours”. It’s at moments like this, that we are given a very intermit insight into how being different can make you feel and as a result make you see the rest of society.



Supporting Charities

Genetics Society

PAMIS (Promoting a more inclusive society)

Down Syndrome Association

Genetic Disorders UK

Genetic Alliance

Muscular Dystrophy UK


Zelda Cheatle renowned curator has also donated her time to act as a consultant on the OXO Gallery exhibition.



Paul Wenham-Clarke has won numerous professional awards including an Association of Photographers Gold Award and been featured on the BBC2 Culture Show. He is a Professor of Photography at the Arts University Bournemouth where he runs the MA Commercial Photography course. He has had previous works shown at the National Portrait Gallery, Victoria & Albert Museum, Somerset House and St Martin-in-the-Fields Gallery.


What links his work is a strong desire to communicate with the public on the social and environmental issues he is passionate about. Often these ask us to consider topics that are unseen but virtually under our noses or in our back yards. Whether it is the loss of human (When Lives Collide) and animal life on our roads (Sacrifice the Birdsong), or the terrible plight of our homeless (Hard Times), or as in the case of his latest book Urban Gypsies - a community fighting to project its cultural identity. In his latest work he asks us to consider how the lives of siblings can be very different from one another as a consequence of their genes.



8th – 19th Jan 2020, 11.00 – 18.00.

The Gallery@OXO, Oxo Tower, Wharf Bargehouse St,

South Bank, London SE1 9PH.







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