riel Sturchio and Bianca Sturchio
2009 - Ongoing
Chasing Light is an ongoing (circa 2011) collaborative medium format color film photography project between twin siblings Bianca and riel Sturchio. Chasing Light embodies the belief that representation, visibility, autonomy, and truth-telling can promote personal empowerment, and open up access to spaces that foster meaningful dialogue and community. Bianca and riel utilize photography as a means to delve into the complications of their respective non-normative identities and health-related challenges. Bianca and riel were both born premature with severely delayed developmental milestones, which doctors later diagnosed as cerebral palsy (CP). With the help of rigorous physical therapy and medical interventions, riel and Bianca learned how to adapt to their bodies. riel’s body endured less trauma and therefore responded more rapidly to therapy, however, riel lives with the consequences of invisible chronic illness related to prematurity. Currently, riel’s CP remains nearly undetectable, while Bianca lives with the physical and social consequences of her visible disabilities.
The photographs included in Chasing Light capture activities of daily living, intimate partners, personal spaces, family, and moments of joy, pain, and frustration. Bianca and riel both identify as non-normative in body and identity, but in different ways. riel is non-binary, queer, and someone who lives with invisible chronic illness, and Bianca lives in the intersection of physically disability and queerness. Bianca and riel strive to reject the 'disability-as-inferior' narrative and invite a perspective that considers disability and non-normativity as an extension of human body-variance, which possesses unique potential for creativity, growth, and adaptability.
The project offers raw and unfiltered moments to illuminate the more challenging aspects of identity and disability, which contain many moving parts. Chasing Light serves as a conduit to consider riel's position as lead photographer or observer, and how riel's gaze both filters and complicates the narrative. The project also makes space for an ongoing dialogue, where riel strives to make sense of the complex dynamics between her identity, body, and environment--namely the privilege and guilt associated with recognizing her ability to access particular social opportunities and pass as non-disabled. Bianca similarly aims to re-frame how she and others imagine the human body and strives to challenge society's narrow perception of what constitutes as valuable, worthy, and deserving of visibility.
riel and Bianca intentionally photograph in natural light for its ability to show detail, provoke emotionality, and reveal the authenticity of aging and the fragility of skin. Moreover, they employ the metaphorical dichotomy of light and dark, representing the uncertainty in seeking physical, mental, and emotional stasis.
Bianca and riel unanimously maintain that social connections create the foundation for community, and that knowledge is a source of power. Thus, they intend to use Chasing Light as a platform for and by disabled artists, as well as allies who share a desire to challenge dominant narratives of health, (dis)ability, illness, LGBTQ+, and non-binary identities.