The concept of photography by the blind is equally difficult to get across to the blind and normal sighted community as it generates similar questions and doubts. Below is an abstract from Partho Bhowmick’s talk to group of visually impaired at several blind schools / institutes to generate their interest in photography and to join the workshops conducted by Blind With Camera project.
Today we have assembled here to explore the possibility of opening a new world, a world of self – expression by exploring your inner abilities to SEE beyond the limitation of your sight.
Describing your home while you are away from home? Most of you can describe your home while you are away, surely all of you can describe the objects you touch every day, you can also describe a new place you had visited if someone had described the place to you and surely you are also familiar with voice you hear every day like that of your family members and friends. All of you can “see” the world around you through your finders (touch) and ears (sound). Touch and sound helps to build images in your mind, which you are able to describe in your words.
As most of you have agreed that you have the ability to create mental images through non-visual clues, why not translate these mental images as your self-expression? Self-expression has no limitation, Beethoven the great western music composer was deaf later in life but he still created music.
Let me tell you briefly about the journey of blind artists over the centuries. The history of Art by the Blind goes back to the pre biblical time, over the centuries blind artists have witness low and high, and only in past three decades blind / disable artists across the world have witnessed an explosion of creative energy ushering “Disability” Art movement. Today there are several accomplished blind photographers and blind artists who exhibit their work at the best of the art galleries and museums around the world and sharing common space with able body artists.
The journey of blind artists over the centuries is a testament to the conviction that with faith, anything is possible.
During my research on blindness and visual art, in the process I came across serveral blind artists around the world. Most significant was Evgan Bavcar, who inspired me start teach photography to the visually impaired. Evgan is one of the most accomplished blind photographer, who lost his complete sight of both eyes at the age of eleven. He lives in Paris has doctorate degree in aesthetics and has over hundred photo exhibitions around the world.
Evgan says – “First, my ears would serve as a guide, by listening carefully, I can tell where the subject is and how far away. If I want to photograph a person (like my friend), I take the picture when I hear him talk or laugh. When I visit a new place, I would ask someone to describe what I’m aiming my camera at, it helps me to build mental image and I can decide to click. For still life subject, I can touch the objects and decide which angle to photograph it from. If I’m waiting for a sunrise or sunset, I feel the heat of the sun on my skin before taking the picture and also know the direction of the sun” .
Like Evgan, I’m also in touch with a group called “Seeing With Photography Collective.” Since 1995, in New York this group is activily working and their work has being travelling worldwide and complied in a book – Shooting Blind published by Aperture Foundation New York. Since 1985 in Japan, The National Blind Photographers Exhibition is held every year where blind from all over Japan submit 200 pictures, complied in a book – Invisible Power. Apart from these there are similar initiatives and workshops conducted around the world.
By now you must be thinking – can we take photographs ?
Yes ! You can take photographs as other visually impaired photographers around the world; photography can be your hobby, a medium of your self-expression, it help to increase your self-esteem, develop your soft skills for social and workplace. Like sighted people go for photography courses, you also need to be trained to take photographs.
Another question that must be in your mind – how do we see the photography taken by us ?
Participants with low and partial sight would somewhat see the photographs taken by them by bringing the photo print close to their eyes or under magnify glass. Participants with complete blindness depend on sighted companion describing the photography to them. Discussions on the photographs focus more on the conceptual and emotional aspect. Raised images of original prints are give them to touch and get a sense of the orientation of objects. A combination of touch and description helps the visually impaired photographer to relate it to the physical prints by recollecting the mental image he / she had at the time of taking the picture.
Photography by the visually impaired is no rocket science. Once you start thinking visually with the purpose to express it outward and you how to do it by using a camera, the process of creation takeover your fear, skyness and hesitance. You must remember that photography can be made with the mind as much as it made by eyes, all you need is imagination of 20 / 20 and desire to create. Once you start enjoy taking photographs you would love doing it for rest of your life.
Helen Keller once said – “When one door of happiness closes, other opens, but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one which has been opened for us”
Blind With Camera project opens new a door for you. Believing is 80% of doing, it’s time for you to hold a camera and “click”