The ME Association is very aware that when the national or local media report on issues relating to our disease, all too often they resort to stock images that undermine the reality of M.E. for a great many people, and that much of the time are considered unrepresentative.
Even when we publish blogs and content on our website or on social media, and try to include images that represent the subject matter, it can be hard to adequately represent M.E. from the stock images that are available.
We receive emails on this subject from people with M.E. and this is an example of one from last year:
“I am sure I am not the only one who is fed up with seeing articles on M.E. showing people smartly presented, groomed, clean, in pristine beds, or in work situations looking slightly tired or with a pained expression on their face.
“That is not the true face of M.E. for many and probably even most sufferers. No wonder this disease isn't taken seriously.
“I am severely affected with M.E. and have to wait ages to be even strong or well enough to tolerate a wash, hair wash, toothbrushing, changing clothes, or bed linen. That may be weeks or longer.
“Why is this side of M.E. not shown?”
In the last couple of months, we have been asking a few people with M.E. (or their carers and family members) to send us photographs of themselves in everyday situations, and it seems that the campaign we are launching today is viable.
This disease can of course affect people differently and, for perhaps the majority, it appears as an invisible illness – they don't have wheelchairs, or walk with sticks, and are not confined to bed or even housebound.
And that's OK too. We are not solely asking for photographs from the severely affected, it is as important that we use images to help demonstrate the invisible nature of M.E., and that for some it is a fluctuating condition.
We also need images that can be used in a variety of different situations, to show that some people with M.E. are able to work, or have fun, or socialise, etc. as well as photographs that show how devastating this condition can be.
What we want is to include more images of real people with M.E. on our website, in our blogs, and across our social media, and we are asking you to send us quality digital photographs in whatever situations or activities you consider to be representative of your life with M.E.
You might also like to consider sending us video taken on your phone. Sometimes short videos can be more effective than photos. If you choose this option then please limit your video clips to less than one minute in length.
If we decide to use your photograph, or video clip, you will not be named – it will remain anonymous – but you should be aware that once it has been posted on the internet anyone else can copy and repost it.
It is our hope that once we have built up a good file of images portraying the ‘Real M.E.', showing people in different situations, we might also be able to feed this into the national media and slowly replace the unrepresentative images that we see today.
But it all depends on the success of this campaign. So, bearing in mind you will remain anonymous, please consider sending us your photographs portraying the ‘Real M.E.' and we will do our best to include them in future publications from the ME Association.
Please send your photographs and/or video clips – together with a short explanation of the context –to our content manager (firstname.lastname@example.org) and title your email ‘Real M.E. Photo Campaign'.
We can't promise that we will use every photograph or video that we are sent. However, once we have built a reasonable library, we will begin to use them on our website and in our social media posts – and will recommend their use when we work with the local and national media.