Aug 7 2009
You know you're not supposed to stare at people with disabilities. But why not? What if you accidentally see an amputee who was attractive and looked great? Why should you turn your head away? And furthermore, why isn't this person supposed to be attractive? Clearly there is a barrier between people with disabilities, especially amputees, and those who feel themselves attracted to them and want to know them better, and vice-versa. That is blatant prejudice and it needs to change—which is why Markus (last name withheld) designed Ampworld.de, a site dedicated to changing how people fetishise amputees.
Hi Markus. It seems you are the heart behind Ampworld. Who is the brain?
This website is the brainchild of my wife, who lost her left leg above-knee after a tragic traffic accident. Ever since she was a child, my wife had dreamt of becoming a professional model. However, the revelation came when she entered a model competition a couple of years ago. Being ashamed of her physical condition, she had hidden the fact that she was wearing a prosthetic leg. It was only during the last round of the contest when the judges eventually noticed the artificial leg. My wife was disqualified straight away.
Ultimately, this harsh experience was the driving force to create a website in order to help people with physical disabilities to work as professional models. Ampworld also intends to encourage people with disabilities, tries to lift their hopes and give them the optimism to help overcome the prejudices and bias that exist against all physically disabled people in the world today.
Where exactly do the bad vibes originate?
Since our website has been operating, only two negative articles have appeared in the press and both of these were in Romania. It seems that discrimination against people with disabilities in eastern European countries is still very prominent.
Newspapers tell their readers that amputees should not appear in public and we know from our own experience that people with disabilities feel very ashamed to take part in any activities that would be likely to attract attention in any way.
One newspaper comment even said that we should bring Adolf Hitler back and kill all disabled people. These are very right wing and extreme viewpoints and everything possible must be done to counteract this kind of attitude. We condemn comments like this in the strongest possible terms.
OK so they don’t like amputees. What about the rest of the world?
Sadly, society’s general acceptance of disabled people—as models and as people who, despite their physical challenges, manage to lead a normal life—varies greatly from country to country. For example, it is rather commonplace in the United States to wear prosthetics without any cosmetics. The Netherlands even stage an annual modeling contest for disabled people, which is fully covered on television on Saturday evening primetime by one of the largest broadcasting companies of the country. However, predominantly in some of the eastern European countries, people with disabilities are widely discriminated against and find themselves often being treated as social outcasts. To anyone with a disability, this kind of intolerance is psychologically devastating and makes it difficult to maintain a positive outlook on life. Unfortunately, we have had more than one opportunity to witness this with our own eyes. Needless to say, we were very shocked and distressed.
What happens to make it all better?
Inevitably, we cannot change all these long-standing stereotypes, intolerances and inequality issues in many countries simply overnight. However, we strongly believe that every little success helps to lift the optimism of those concerned and conveys the important message that no one on this planet should be coerced into a feeling of inferiority simply because of a physical disability.
As far as I can tell, your models are never nude, but they are often dressed sexy and look a little hot and bothered. How come?
Why should this question even arise? Why shouldn’t disabled people be sexy? Our aim is to demonstrate that, firstly, beauty and disability are by no means contradictory terms. Secondly, disabled people are as happy and have the same quality and standard of life as their able-bodied counterparts (just why do the latter always think otherwise?). Thirdly, working as a professional model is possible. And last, but not least: there is no reason to hide from the world because of a physical disability.
I understand that you want to show amputees as human beings who are hot, despite their handicap. What would you say if somebody perhaps started a website similar to yours but instead the models have, for example, lost their eyeballs or maybe have some kind of flesh-eating disease?
Fantastic! I think this will be a great idea! Why not? Everyone, whether man or woman, handicapped or not has a special beauty. There is much more to a human being than physical perfection. Society and the press have conditioned us to define beauty as physical perfection. In some cases this definition of beauty takes on bizarre forms. Some top models appear to be anorexic and are frankly walking skeletons. Something like less than 1% of the population would meet this criteria of beauty and the rest of the population should feel inferior as they are either too fat or short or wear glasses.
One of your “services” included in a membership provides the model’s contact information. Is there a certain demographic out there that wants to meet up with amputee gals?
There is. Growing up and getting access to the internet in the mid-90, I realised that I was not alone with these strange and powerful feelings about women who are amputees. To my astonishment, I quickly found out that there were a great many people just like me. And I discovered that there are also women who are attracted to males who are amputees, and of course, there are gays and lesbians in this population, just as there are in the society in general.
There is no common denominator in this community. By that I mean there doesn't seem to be any kind of particular characteristic in this segment of the population and they are drawn from all ethnic groups, professions, religions, with varying educational backgrounds. Lots of perfectly normal people from a broad spectrum of the population--men and women--have a special attraction to amputees. All will tell you that this something special is in them since their childhood, often revealed by the first sighting of an amputee, though not necessarily female. This first sighting did not trigger it, but it revealed it to them for the first time consciously. I believe this is probably imprinted in us in the very first years of our lives. Some even go as far as to say that we are born that way. No one really knows for sure.
In many ways, this is much like being homosexual. You can't tell where it comes from, and you don't choose to be the way you are. It comes to you early in your life, you can't escape it, provided you even want to, and it's there till the very last moment of your life on Earth.
OK, so you’re kiiiind of also running a dating site.
There are few people who are amputees, but even worse, there are very few people who are amputees AND in the correct age group to be available for a partnership for life. This is what most members of this community will tell you they are looking for: a partner for life who would preferably be an amputee. I was very lucky to be one of those who managed to get in direct contact with one of these wonderful ladies, one who represented everything I was expecting a partner for my whole life to be. I married her. Few are offered this opportunity. And that is also true for those who are amputees, especially females. All of them want to find a partner for life who will value them just like they are, and not "despite" the amputation. So many of them have been told: "You're good looking, and I like you. Too bad about your leg...". And often in a much less delicate way.
As this community of people with disabilities, amputees in particular, is rather limited in number, and the community of people who are attracted to them is equally small, and probably even smaller, a network needed to be developed, in a serious and professional manner, which is one of the objectives of ampworld.de
What inspires the photos?
Unlike the big fashion magazines we want to combine fashion and beauty with naturalness. Our photos have not been manipulated with Photoshop or any other computer enhancing photo programs. They are what the camera sees. We want to show the true beauty of our models and not an illusory world. Apart from this, one of our main aims is to help some of our models who are in need and we have already provided more than ten models with new prosthetic limbs or prosthetic fittings and this has helped them enormously to get back to living a normal life. Often we see that our shooting changes the personality of some of our models. Young women are particularly ashamed of their handicap and suffer because of it. With our shootings we have boosted their self-confidence and helped them to see themselves in a different way.
Recently we had a 20-year-old girl from Romania who lost her right arm in a terrible car accident.
Oh, no, and we know how mean the Romanians can be about this kind of thing.
Before she came to us she was very withdrawn and shy, she hardly left home, and she disguised her handicap by wearing long pullovers and blouses. Even her boyfriend had never seen her missing arm. She would always keep the lights dimmed and cover herself with a blanket. Since the shooting, she has changed completely for the better and can now deal with her handicap openly. She is no longer afraid to been seen in public and she sent us some photos recently showing herself on holiday with her boyfriend wearing only a bikini. This surprised and delighted us, and we are very proud to have helped change her self-perception.
I’ve only heard of amputee pageants and contests like Britain’s Top Missing Model but what other kind of modeling or acting work can an amputee get these days?
The Model business is very competitive. What is particularly bad is that big orthopedic suppliers prefer to use normal models in their wheelchair advertisements. It seems that this makes more sense to them than to use a model with a disability, who is really in a wheelchair.
Yeah, that doesn’t make much sense.
In our opinion, many large orthopedic companies (which we cannot mention for legal reasons) treat their models very unfairly. Models, who present their products at world trade fairs and advertisements, are fobbed off with the lowest possible fees. These companies make a prosthetic socket especially for the model and at the end of the photo session they take it back again—the reason they give for this is that it is not in their interests to damage the business of the orthopaedic technicians.
That seems really mean.
Many young people are not in a financial position to pay $5,000 for a prosthetic socket. In addition it is always difficult to get the health insurance companies in Germany to pay for the best electronic prosthetics, in spite of the fact that the law requires them to provide this technology. This forces many individuals to fight the health insurance companies in court for their right to a decent standard of life.
Very often handicapped people have only two options and that is to sell their tragic stories to newspapers or appear on television talk shows. It is practically impossible for them to have a real chance to get a major role in the film business or on stage or in the top ranking modeling industry. We would like to see this change.
Your next model's Debbie van der Putten. I did a little googling and found out that she was a huge hit in Playboy.
That edition of Playboy had the highest sales of all time in Holland and caused something of a media sensation. As a matter of principle we have never shown any of our models in nude or erotic poses and therefore for us the question does not really arise. We have no intention of changing this policy in the future. However, in our opinion a model wearing a sexy outfit is much more erotic than a nude. We propose looking at people with disabilities from a different perspective. But nude modeling is a different experience altogether, whether you are an amputee or not.
For most of our models, arriving at a shooting and presenting themselves to the camera as they are, is a tremendous achievement in itself. For most of them, being seen by strangers, not to mention being photographed, with their stump visible is a totally new experience. The stump is a very private and intimate part of their anatomy. For some of these ladies, being seen and pictured without the prosthesis and the stump exposed, is very much like being photographed nude.
So Debbie van der Putten’s like extra naked then.
Debbie has been photographed nude professionally, and maybe others will choose to follow suit. But this is another endeavor in their individual voyage of self-discovery and a revelation to public attitudes…. Debbie is happy to try this and we're happy for her. But it is important that our models know that this is another journey, of a different kind, and that we are not providing this kind of service, so they don't have to worry about it. It makes the models who don't want to go there, which is the vast majority, more comfortable with the concept of being photographed in a normal way.
I noticed the price tag for a 12-month master membership. What exactly is someone paying 425 Euros for?
Unfortunately, we have no sponsors or financial backing of any kind. The cost of running our project is extremely high. The membership fees are our only source of income. This barely covers the cost of model fees, traveling costs, our backup team, and the costs for new prosthetics for the models. If we were to find financial investors at some time in the future, we would be able to present our material free of charge. Unfortunately, this solution seems to be a long way off.