d-FORMED is the startling autobiographical exhibition of Kev Howard. It is an incredibly hard hitting yet at the same time sensitive photographic record of the physical challenges and the constant surgical procedures Kev has faced over the years.
Kev Howard is an instantly recognisable figure, often to be seen clicking away with his camera at local gigs and events. He is surely the only expert didgeridoo player on Teesside and often performs live with his array of instruments. Both skills he has mastered with his mechanical hand. But I had absolutely no idea about the medical history, the painful decisions and indeed pain he has endured to get to this point. To say that the exhibition has been an eye opener would be a gross understatement. But also it underlines once again what a wonderful photographer and a great artist Kev undoubtedly is.
The exhibition starts as we confront a representation of the mask that Kev would have worn as he was anaesthetised before going down to surgery as a young lad. The emotions of fear were gradually superseded as he grew older and more experienced. But it is still a very stark gateway for us to the photo representations of the operations and outcomes as his growing body was realigned.
It isn’t something I have ever really thought about before the decisions as to whether to increase function or even sacrifice a limb. I guess I have a tiny insight in that I was born with an extra digit and have been left with a thumb that only half works but that is absolutely nothing whatsoever compared to Kev growing facing so many physical challenges. These are challenges he still has to live and cope with throughout his life.
I found there was real beauty in the photography. When Kev replaces his limbs with coloured sculptured forms he forces us to think about why we often see beauty as skin deep or not.
The final blood spattered image confronts the present system of appeals people must now leap through for disability benefits and all the trauma people are being put through. After Kev’s exhibition we are better placed to realise the back history and the physical and emotional ordeals some being reassessed for benefits have been through already.
This is such a brave exhibition for Kev to undertake. He has put his body on the line for surgery and now once again through his lens. It is a powerful statement brilliantly presented. For the viewer you will go on a real journey and I think be much enriched and rewarded for taking it.
D-Formed is displayed until 23 April at Dorman Museum that is open Tuesday to Sunday every week.