Samena Rana was a photographer and disability activist. Born in 1955 in Lahore, Pakistan, she moved to England at the age of 9 to receive hospital treatment after being injured in a car accident. She studied at the Florence Treolar School and the College of Further Education at Coventry and worked in Saudi Arabia as a translator after her A-levels. During her travels in Pakistan in 1982, she became interested in photography and returned to London to pursue a part-time photography course at the Sir John Cass School of Arts. It was here that she experienced the problems facing many disabled photographers – the lack of accessible darkrooms. Because the class was on the second floor, she was told that her presence was a fire hazard and she eventually left the course.
Her pursuit to find an accessible darkroom led her to SHAPE, a photographer’s studio in the Battersea Arts Centre, where she began developing and printing her own black and white photographs. She fought to improve accessibility for other disabled photographers and her advocacy led to changes in policies both at the Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA) and Camerawork’s darkroom in East London. Some of her professional commitments included working as a freelance Disability Awareness Trainer with Interchange and the London Disability Resource Team and she was also a Trustee of London Artsline in Camden.