Dexter McLean’s compelling series documents the people of his Jamaican birth town, Olympic Gardens

The Tower Avenue project has helped Dexter to connect with other disabled creatives, namely Giles Duley, a fellow portrait and documentary photographer. “Giles is a constant source of inspiration for me,” Dexter says, “he is a disabled photographer who is in Ukraine right now, documenting disabled people’s lives through the war. I am so happy he agreed to be part of my current show.” Dexter is now currently in the process of crowdfunding for his next upcoming project, in which he plans to return to Jamaica and document people living with disabilities. “The disabled get no support in Jamaica, and I want to bring this to the media’s attention with my work,” the photographer concludes. An exhibition of the Tower Avenue series is currently showing at Orleans House Gallery in Twickenham, and will be running until the 12th June.
Dexter’s love of photography began at the age of 13, when his aunty bought him his first camera and he became instantly “obsessed”. Taking photography at GCSE and completing Tower Avenue as his final MA project at Middlesex university, photography has played a central role in his life. Moreover, photography has also proven a means for Dexter to navigate his experience as a disabled individual living with cerebral palsy. To overcome negative or reductive preconceptions, he says, “I think when you look at my pictures you can’t tell I have a disability, which has helped to keen peoples focus on what I can do, not what I can’t do”.
Upon returning to start work on Tower Avenue, Dexter recalls being taken aback by the growth of drinking culture. Many of his photographs are therefore taken in Angela’s Bar, one of the most popular new establishments. The work is rooted in the “lack of job opportunities in the country”, and also the vast amount of street vendors, which, although stemming from wider societal problems, Dexter also acknowledges “contributes to a more solid community, promoting togetherness”. This sense of togetherness also extends into family life, where Dexter views a greater respect of the elderly, “the people of Olympics Gardens believe in taking care of their elderly and are against placing old family members in care homes,” he tells us, “they believe it’s the family’s duty to care for and look after the older members of the community”.

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