Tag Archives: blind photographer

“Shot in the Dark” Screening at Wexford Documentary Film Festival

“Shot In The Dark”, A documentary film about 3 professional blind photographers by Frank Amann, Germany, 2016

Saturday 23rd of September, 4pm, screening with audio description  

Kilmore Quay, near Wexford town

Shot in the dark cover

A blind person is probably the least person you’d expect to be a photographer. SHOT IN THE DARK is an intimate portrait of three successful artists who have one thing in common: visual impairment as a starting point for their visual explorations. Watching SHOT IN THE DARK will introduce three extraordinary people. These blind artists insist on participating in the world of visuals. At the same time they question this world with their photographic work, in which nothing is taken for granted. This film poses fundamental questions about seeing and the imagination and enriches our understanding of perception and creation. We all close our eyes in sleep, the sighted and blind alike, and in our dreams – we see. Please note that this film with have an audio description suitable for people with visual impairment.

Also read our interview with Frank Amann and a report from a workshop with blind photographer Sonia Soberats for more information.

Post screening discussion with Director Frank Amann, Tina Paulick (Photo narrations Pictures for the Blind and Sighted) and filmmaker Laura Way.

The full programme of the Wexford Documentary Film Festival can be viewed here. Booking for the opening film is essential.

http://wexforddocumentaryfilmfestival.ie/gallery/films-2017/2/

Directions:

Kilmore Quay is located approximately 25 minutes drive from Wexford town and Rosslare Harbour.

The festival organisers are very friendly and willing to give advice on accommodation in Wexford. Lifts or shared taxies to Kilmore Quay can also be organised. Please get in touch if you would like to attend and we will arrange to meet you or put you in touch with the festival organisers. picdesc@gmail.com

Directions:Coming from Wexford: Follow the N25 to Rosslare Harbour. Approximately two miles after the Drinagh roundabout on the outskirts of Wexford, there is a signpost for the R739 which takes you to Kilmore Quay. Turn right here and follow the road through Ballycogley and Kilmore village to Kilmore Quay. Kilmore Quay is approximately three miles past Kilmore village.Coming from Rosslare: Take the N25 to Wexford town. Pass through Kilrane, Tagoat and Killinick. Two miles after Killinick take a left turn onto the R739 signposted for Kilmore Quay. Follow the directions as above from here.

By Train: The nearest train stations are Wexford O’Hanrahan Station in Wexford town
or Rosslare Europort train station. Services are limited. www.irishrail.ie

By Bus: Daily bus services to and from Wexford town are provided by Wexford Bus.
For current timetables please visit www.wexfordbus.ie

We hope to see many of you there

 

 

 

Light painting of 2 women's faces lit from below, in front of a black background

Blind Photography Workshop in Dublin

I´m working for a Berlin-based project called Photo Narrations – Pictures for the Blind and Sighted. We organise photography workshops for people with vision impairments. The idea developed when photographer Karsten Hein was taking photos of people with sight loss for one of his exhibitions. Talking to his models,he realised that especially those who used to have more sight were interested in photography but had given it up or didn’t feel comfortable enough to join a photography club. So Karsten started a specific photography group.

a man with with a guide dog taking pictures, a woman standing next to him assists

How does blind photography work?

It is all about teamwork. The vision impaired photographer teams up with one or two sighted volunteers. The assistants help with selecting motives, framing the shot and picking the best pictures. At the end of each session, all teams meat up to talk about each others pictures and to describe them. Pictures and descriptions are subsequently gathered in an online exhibition on our German blog, where readers can ask more detailed questions.

a woman taking pictures assisted by a man standing behind her

To promote the international blind photography community, we launched our English blog www.photonarrations.wordpress.com giving blind photographers worldwide a platform to showcase their work and share their experiences.

light painting of a lamp

Workshop in Dublin

The two-day introduction to digital photography and light painting held at the NCBI this July was our first workshop outside Germany and exceeded our expectations in every way. I was amazed how quickly the course was booked out and even more astonished about the number of volunteers who were intrigued by the idea and gave up their weekend to assist us. The NCBI staff too was very enthusiastic and allowed us to use their training centre.

Brendan Behan statue sitting on a bench

Photo Walk

After a brief introduction we split into groups. Some of us took their smartphones and digital cameras and went for a photo walk along the canal. It was a great way to explore the surroundings. The volunteers looked out for interesting visual landmarks like the graveyard or the red brigg houses on the other side of the canal many of us wouldn’t have noticed before. The statue of Brendan Behan was a great model, because he didn’t move and everyone could touch him to get a good angle for their photographs.

Light Painting of the same woman twice in one picture, she makes faces

 

Light Painting

The second day consisted exclusively of light painting. Light painting is done in a completely dark room with digital cameras set to long exposure times. Only what is eluminated with torches and other light sources will be visible in the photograph. If the exposure time is long enough one can even switch off the lights, move and reappear somewhere else in the picture. The background is mostly dark and people or objects appear to be illuminated from the inside. It is a bit like painting a portrait. The model has to sit really still, otherwise the picture will be blurry, which creates a ghostly effect that can look interesting too. Additionally, the photographer can use the flash lamp to draw extra lines into the photo. A person can have wings or a halo for example.

a woman with wings painted with light

We had great fun experimenting with different techniques, trying out what would happen if somebody swung a cane or moved in a circle while the picture was taken. Some groups produced ghostly images, while others used props to tell stories. One team spent hours writing the words breaking limits with lights in Braille and letters. Personally, I learned a lot about the different camera settings and how changing them affects the picture.

Working Together

The atmosphere was fantastic and the two days flew by. The volunteers were mainly members of Dublin Camera Club and Off Shoot Photography Society. One professional photographer even came from Limerick. It was an honour to have all these experienced photographers at our workshop. The event would not have been such a success without their help. Most of the volunteers had never worked with someone with vision impairment before, but they all were incredibly friendly and helpful. Blind photography is a great way to facilitate dialogue between sighted and vision impaired people. One lady said, she used to have problems with her sight and although the thought of it decreasing further is still scary, at least she now has a better understanding of how people with vision impairments live and knows that she could still be a photographer.

A man with blue shirt and dark glasses writing his initials with light

Feedback

We are thrilled with the positive feedback from the participants. All of them had a different level of sight and varying experiences with photography. Some used to take photographs before losing their sight while others were just curious and wanted to be able to take pictures for social media platforms and blogs. The enthusiasm for trying out something new like light painting was contagious. Photography can also be a powerful tool for change. One participant for example takes photos of obstacles on footpaths to raise awareness for the challenges he faces in everyday life. Encouraged by the positive experience at our workshop, he will attend a photography meet-up organised by Dublin Camera Club next week. In a time increasingly reliant on images, we want to enable people with vision impairments to participate in this visual culture and to join mainstream clubs and societies.

Light painting of a man and a woman through a net scarf

It was suggested to organise a number of photography workshops throughout the year in different locations. There are so many scenic places in Ireland and we would love to capture some of them.

This post was written for the NCBI InSight Magazine.

 

 

 

Sighted Volunteers wanted for Photography Workshop for People with Visual Impairments in Dublin

black and white picture of a group of people taking pictures
copyright Stephen Wilke

We are thrilled about the number of people with vision impairments who got in contact with us to book a place at our photography workshop held on the 8th and 9th of July at the NCBI head Office, Whitworth Rd, Dublin 9. Some participants will even travel from other parts of the country to attend. To ensure the availability of assistance for everybody, the event is now booked out, but we have a waiting list, so feel free to get in touch.

We are still looking for further volunteers to assist the participants to develop ideas for their photographs, to help them to capture the pictures and to describe the results. We know a whole weekend is a big commitment, but you can also volunteer for one day only.

Who can Volunteer?

  • Anyone who is interested in the project and would like to try out digital photography and light painting
  • Experience and / or an interest in photography would be brilliant, but are not necessary. Everything we do will be explained.
  • Equally experience in working with people with vision impairments would be great, but is by no means required.
  • So, if you would like to try out something different and enjoy meeting new people this volunteering role is for you! We are more than happy to answer questions via email or phone.

What: Free 2 day digital photography and light painting workshop

When: Saturday 8th July, Sunday 9th July.

Who is it for: participants with visual impairments interested in trying out photography and sighted volunteers, no experience required

Where? NCBI Head Office, Whitworth Rd. Dublin 9.

How to register? Email picdesc@gmail.com for further questions and to register.

What to bring: enthusiasm for trying out something new, smart phone or digital camera and props e.g. scarf’s, hats, costumes and LED flash lights, if available

Run by: Karsten Hein (organises photography workshops for visually impaired people in Berlin)

Outcome: exhibition of photographs with accompanying texts, Permanent online exhibition and article at www.photonarrations.wordpress.com

The idea:

 The photography workshop challenges the prevailing misconception, that blind people have no understanding of and interest in visual arts. People with physical disabilities tend to be in pictures, rather than taking them. This project aims to turn the ‘gaze of the spectator’ around, giving those who are usually stared at an opportunity to portrayal the world through their own eyes. Professional and hobby photographers from all backgrounds are welcome to come along.

The resulting exhibition will promote awareness among the general public and showcase the artistic talent of the participants.

How it works:

Karsten Hein runs popular workshops for blind and visually impaired photographers in Berlin. This seminar will include digital photography and light painting. Light painting takes place in a completely dark room and only the areas previously illuminated with a flashlight are visible in the final photograph.

After an introduction to the basics of photography, the participants will be asked to take pictures of places and people that are important to them or objects they use in everyday life. While the artistic representation is important, it is often the story behind it that makes a picture interesting. Light painting is more conceptual similar to designing a stage set and the participants will pose as each others models.

The participants will be divided into small groups with at least one sighted assistant in each group. They will discuss their ideas together, put them into practice, select their pictures for the exhibition and write the accompanying texts. At the end of each day the groups show each other their photographs and describe them. It is not only an art workshop but also a fun day out and a great way to meet new people.

 

Photography Workshop for People with Visual Impairments in Dublin

a black and white photograph of a woman with dark glasses and head holding a camera. Two younger women help her to take the picture.

 

What: Free 2 day digital photography and light painting workshop

When: Saturday 8th July, Sunday 9th July.

Who is it for: participants with visual impairments interested in trying out photography and sighted volunteers, no experience required

Where? NCBI Head Office, Whitworth Rd. Dublin 9.

How to register? Email picdesc@gmail.com for further questions and to register.

What to bring: enthusiasm for trying out something new, smart phone or digital camera and props e.g. scarf’s, hats, costumes and LED flash lights, if available

Run by: Karsten Hein (organises photography workshops for visually impaired people in Berlin)

Outcome: exhibition of photographs with accompanying texts, Permanent online exhibition and article at www.photonarrations.wordpress.com

The idea:

 The photography workshop challenges the prevailing misconception, that blind people have no understanding of and interest in visual arts. People with physical disabilities tend to be in pictures, rather than taking them. This project aims to turn the ‘gaze of the spectator’ around, giving those who are usually stared at an opportunity to portrayal the world through their own eyes. Professional and hobby photographers from all backgrounds are welcome to come along.

The resulting exhibition will promote awareness among the general public and showcase the artistic talent of the participants.

How it works:

Karsten Hein runs popular workshops for blind and visually impaired photographers in Berlin. This seminar will include digital photography and light painting. Light painting takes place in a completely dark room and only the areas previously illuminated with a flashlight are visible in the final photograph.

After an introduction to the basics of photography, the participants will be asked to take pictures of places and people that are important to them or objects they use in everyday life. While the artistic representation is important, it is often the story behind it that makes a picture interesting. Light painting is more conceptual similar to designing a stage set and the participants will pose as each others models.

The participants will be divided into small groups with at least one sighted assistant in each group. They will discuss their ideas together, put them into practice, select their pictures for the exhibition and write the accompanying texts. At the end of each day the groups show each other their photographs and describe them. It is not only an art workshop but also a fun day out and a great way to meet new people.

 

„Shot in the Dark“ – A Documentary with Blind Photographers

We talked to Berlin-based producer Frank Amann about how his newly released documentary film “Shot in the Dark” developed out of coincidental meetings with blind and visually impaired photographers and his fascination with their works. The result is an intimate portrait of three remarkable artists. The following text is translated from German and based on a telephone conversation and my research, therefore most of Frank’s answers are rephrased.

What inspired you to make a film about blind photographers?

“Shot in the Dark” is my first work as a director, I’m first and foremost a camera man. About six years ago I worked on the Spanish Basque Film “Camera Obscura”. The film is a coming of age story about a blind girl, who is overly protected by her parents and tries to find her place in a very visual teenage world. I wanted to portrayal her point of view through filming techniques and started asking myself, how this girl experiences her surroundings.

I did some research and found the blind photographer Evgen Bavcar. But his texts are concerned with the philosophical rather than the visual aspect of blind photography. Subsequently, I came across the catalogue to the exhibition “Sight Unseen”, featuring blind photographers from several countries. The exhibition is touring museums around the world for ten years now and some of the pictures captivated me long after I went to see the exhibition live.

While I was working for a different project in the USA, I spontaneously decided to call two of the photographers featured in “Sight Unseen”, Bruce Hall and Pete Eckert and asked them to meet up. At the time I didn’t have an idea for the film yet. I was just curious and wanted to meet the photographers, who made these fascinating pictures. What was supposed to be a quick chat turned into a long conversation. We discovered that our views on photography and art were very similar. However, it was a long journey from the idea to the finished feature film about Pete Eckert, Bruce Hall and Sonia Soberats.

What was important to you while making the film?

I didn’t want to make a film about but with blind photographers. I saw the short HBO film “Dark Light: The Art of blind Photography” also featuring Bruce and Pete. It tries to explain with didactical and analytical methods how blind photographers work. Sighted Photographers were asked to speculate how it works and the whole thing reminded me of explorers digging in an anthill.

My film is more visual and observing. It follows the photographers doing their work and lets them and their families and friends talk. I want the audience to form their own opinions on what they see and hear without being guided and influenced by my commentary. Although sight loss and family stories influence the photographers’ choice of motives, the film’s main focus is on the artists themselves and their works.

Bruce Hall

Bruce for example does mainly underwater photography and portraits of his autistic twin sons. Together with his wife he published the book “Immersed: Our Experience with Autism”. Because he has difficulties seeing his sons’ facial expressions, looking at magnified pictures of them enables him to get to know them on a different level. The mainly non-verbal interaction with his children is important, but not the main focus of the film sequences about Bruce. Since his early childhood he uses magnifiers and nowadays large screens to piece together what he sees. He says himself he sees twice: First an impression or shape in front of the camera and later more details in the finished picture.

I also wanted the protagonists themselves to be able to enjoy the finished film. That’s why we offer audio description with the smart phone app GRETA. Additionally, I worked with sound effects and incorporated different layers of sounds. In cinema screenings the sound will move between several loudspeakers, creating an almost three-dimensional soundscape.

What is it that fascinates you about the works of these blind photographers and what do you think differentiates them from sighted photographers?

Nowadays we’re constantly flooded by pictures. To gain our attention for more than a few seconds and to stay in our mind afterwards, a picture has to show something special or have an unusual perspective or technique. With regards to that blind photographers may have an advantage, because they compare pictures less. Someone who sees nothing or very little loses him or herself less in details, thus light and shadow contrasts as well as abstract forms become more pronounced. Even I sometimes narrow my eyes to focus on the bigger picture as a whole. That however doesn’t mean all photographs taken by blind people are the same, on the contrary their motives and techniques vary as much as their remaining sight and their interests.

Do blind photographers work differently than sighted ones?

Every artist – sighted or not- has his or her own working methods. The work of most blind photographers is conceptual. While sighted people often spot something worth capturing by chance, their blind counterparts first develop the picture composition in front of their inner eye and subsequently try to assemble it.

Pete Eckert

Pete was a carpenter as well as an arts and architecture student, before he gradually lost his vision due to a genetic condition. While going blind he also took up business studies. He switched from sculpturing to woodcutting and eventually took up photography. Even today he still works with an analogue camera because it gives him more independence. Pete touches the mechanics of the camera and uses sticky marking points to differentiate the settings. Apart from getting help to select the photographs for large format prints, he works without sighted people. For Pete only a picture composed and taken without sighted help is an authentic photograph depicting the world of the blind. Nevertheless, feedback from viewers is important to him, since no artist can stay motivated without encouragement.

Sonia Soberats

As a young Venezuelan immigrant mother, Sonia lost her two children to cancer and became blind within a short space of time. Although she hadn’t done photography previously she joined a group of blind and visually impaired photographers in New York and found new fulfilment in light painting. Light painting takes place in a completely dark room where the depicted person or object is illuminated with different flashlights, which give the finished picture an almost ghostlike quality. Sonia takes her inspirations from experiences, events, smells and touchable textures. Her models are often family members and close friends, whom she talks to during the photo shoot. To put her ideas into practice Sonia has a sighted assistant. The concepts are hers, the assistant provides only technical help.

The documentary was shot in English and will hopefully be screened in other countries soon.

 

close-up of a white and pink blossom with yellow in the middle

Interview with visually impaired photographer Chelsea Stark

Tell us something about your self and why you are passionate about photography.

My name is Chelsea Stark and I am a 36-year-old visually impaired woman. I started taking photos when I was about 12. I found that it was a great way for me to see the world around me. And I really enjoyed it. Over the years I have had several kinds of cameras. The two cameras I really enjoyed using so far are my IPhone 6 and my Sony a 6000.

 

How did you and do you learn to take good photos?

I have not taken any formal classes or training. All I know comes from practice, practice, practice. I tend to take a picture when I see something that interests me, or something I want to see up close. And sometimes just that little act of wanting to know what’s around me helps me to get some amazing shots.

 

Do you get inspirations from works of other photographers?

My inspiration comes from my loving husband Robert Park. He is a fine art landscape photographer. He has some amazing skills and amazing images. I learn so much from him every time we go out.

 

Small waterfall surrounded by green

What equipment do you use and did your visual impairment play a role in choosing the right camera and accessories?

 I have used several different kinds of cameras. Recently I have been using a Sony a 6000 and an IPhone 6. For each piece of equipment that I have used or purchased over the years one key factor was that it must have a live View Setting or capability. It is the only way I can see what’s around me and compose a photo.

 

What are your preferred subjects to photograph and do you think your choice of objects and styles is influenced by your visual impairment?

I like to photograph animals, flowers and occasionally landscape when it moves me. I use the camera mostly to get a better view of my world around me.

silhouettes of horses on a beach

How do you find your subjects as a legally blind person? Do you have an idea in your head before you go out to take pictures?

I do not go out with any plans or ideas. I find that my best images just appear. I just go out with my equipment and shoot what presents itself to me. I have found that planning sometimes leads to disappointment. And that random photo that you never expected tends to be the best photo you’ve taken all day.

 

How do you choose which photos to post on your blog and social media? Do you get sighted people to describe them to you?

When I decide that I want to post something on my block or social media, I usually just post what I like. Sometimes I will get an opinion here or there. But It is my page with my rules and my images and I just go with it.

 

You always write a short text to each photo where it was taken. How important are the location and the story behind the picture to you?

I give a location if possible because the first question I always hear is: where was that taken? By putting the location out there that question is no longer a problem. I believe it’s very important to write a little something about each image that you post. It helps people to get in the right frame of mind while they look at your image. Plus it helps with Google’s indexing.

 Inside of an Southern European looking restaurant

Do you use photo shop programmes and how accessible do you find them?

I use either a program called Aperture or IPhoto. But often I will use built-in features on my IPhone or IPad. The latest version of IOS does a decent job on photo editing. If it needs more work than that, I will have my husband or someone else do some minor tweaks to the image in their photo editing program of their choice. But a lot of times it’s just straight from the IPhone or IPad. The already mentioned Aperture is fairly accessible and also allows me to catalogue photos.

 

Do you think photos taken by visually impaired people are different to those sighted people take and do you think it is fair to compare them?

I believe every photographer has their own style. And everybody’s images are different, regardless of whether they are blind, visually impaired or fully sighted. I’m not sure if it is fair to compare photographer’s work based on whether they have vision or not.  But if vision is left out of the equation being compared to other photographers is perfectly fine with me.

 

Would you disclose your visual impairment if you were to enter a photography competition and why yes or no?

Yes I would disclose my visual impairment. I belief letting people know about my visual impairment helps them to understand my work better and makes them see the artwork in a different way.

 

How do people on the street react when they see you taking pictures?

I’m not really sure. I’ve had nobody say anything to me regarding me taking photos. But I’m sure I’ve gotten some weird books once in a while.

 Three bottles of sauce

Could you imagine making photography your profession? And what are your aims for the future with regards to photography?

It would be cool to make photography my profession. Right now my goals regarding photography are just to take some interesting images around me. And maybe sell some here and there. But at the moment it’s just for fun.

 

Do you have some general tips for blind and visually impaired people who want to take up photography?

My suggestion for any visually impaired or blind person who wants to get into photography, is to get yourself an IPhone 6. It may sound like a silly thing to start with. But it is easy to learn and will cost a lot less then a good camera.  If you find that you actually enjoy photography and you want to get something that will give you the ability to have larger images, the next step would be to do some research on cameras and see which one fits your preferences and your capabilities with your hands and eyes.

Follow Chelsea

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Pinterist

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Guidelines for picture descriptions

These guidelines were composed by the blind art historian Anja Winter in German. The list focuses on paintings but can also be applied to photographs. You can find more suggestions in how to describe pictures to blind people in our “Your Description” section.

1.  Facts

  • painter
  • title and genre
  • format and measurements
  • technique
  • time of origin

 

Description

  • composition (fore – middle and background)
  • main object (only what draws the viewer’s attention immediately)
  • colours

 

2. Impression, Mood

  • detailed description of what is to see in the picture
  • avoiding personal interpretation

 

3. General background information

  • (If extra knowledge is needed to interpret the picture)
  • Biographical dates of painter and if existing of client
  • Style and epoch
  • Distinctive characteristics from an art historian’s perspective
  • Historical or religious background

Copyright tastkunst 06. 2012

 

Describing Photos in Teamwork

This text is an afterthought to the description of  Darek’s windmill I wrote together with a friend.

We are always looking for new sighted people to describe the pictures on our blog to the blind and visually impaired photographers who took them and of course to all our other readers.  Most of our “picture describers”, as we call them are students from our workshops in Berlin or people who write professionally or as pastime. However, you don’t need to have a background in journalism, blogging or creative writing. In fact you don’t even need to be an expert on photography or visual arts. While knowledge and interests in these fields can be helpful, everyone can describe a picture. Processing and reflecting visual stimuli comes naturally to everyone who can see something, even if it’s just blurry shapes or light and shade. We do it all the time in our everyday lives and take it for granted without even noticing.

The Fear of the Empty Page

Since I write for this blog, I’ve talked to quite a few people, who said they are interested in our project but wouldn’t know how to describe a photograph to someone who can’t see it. Personally, I think the most difficult thing is to get started and simply try. It’s like writing an academic essay, prose, poetry or even a letter. We are afraid of the empty page, or nowadays the blank screen staring back at us. Once we’ve done the first step and simply started to write something, more words and sentences start to come naturally. Additionally, what we write in this first outburst doesn’t have to be perfect; it can always be changed, edited or even deleted.

The Process of Writing as Teamwork

For me,  writing blog posts and photo descriptions is actually easier than composing academic essays, because it gives me more creative freedom and there aren’t any guidelines, except those we set ourselves. Obviously we want readers to follow our thoughts and like our texts, so they have to be readable, structured and not full of mistakes. And I assume most of us want to write about something that matters to us and our followers.

Especially when writing academic papers, I try to get someone else to read and comment on my text. After reading them over and over again, we tend to overlook our own mistakes. Because we spend so much time developing them, the way we put our arguments on paper appears completely logical to us. Discussing our thoughts with another person often helps to express ourselves better and clearer. And finally we get to talk to another human being instead of sitting alone at our desk all day.

How does that help me to describe a Picture?

It only occurred to me recently, that describing a photograph could involve even more teamwork than editing academic texts, because the whole process of writing it can become a dialogue. It’s like having a jogging partner, if somebody else is involved and to some extend relies on your commitment, chances are you will be more likely to overcome your doubts or laziness or whatever it is that makes you hesitate, and actually do what you set out to do.

So one afternoon I sat a friend down to compose a description with me. We had talked about doing this for months, but never actually got around to doing it. This friend has no prior experience in creative or journalistic writing and only a casual interest in photography. He said his main reservations against writing a description on his own were, that he wasn’t sure how to compose a text people wanted to read and which aspects of the photo were relevant.

Questions over Questions

I still have some sight. Thus, I saw the general outline of the windmill, the blue sky and the green grass and I guessed there were trees. Starting from there I asked general questions to get a better understanding of the outlines of the photograph:

  • What are your first spontaneous reactions and associations?
  • What are the prominent objects?
  • How much space does the windmill take up?, Where in the picture is it?
  • Describe the mill in more detail: shapes, individual parts, colours, textures …
  • From which side are we looking at it
  • Can you see people? How many? Where are they in relation to each other and the mill?
  • What can you see of the people? What are they wearing? What are they looking at? What are they doing? (Body language, communication between them)
  • What else is there in the background? What kind of trees? Where are they in relation to the mill and the people?
  • Are there other details you wouldn’t notice at the first glance? Any objects captured by accident?

After a while I came up with lots of questions. One often led to another. I found the trick or secret was to give my friend prompts and suggestions he could use as a starting point. To find answers to some of the more specific questions like “What do the people wear” he had to look very closely. Sometimes he couldn’t see details very clearly and had to guess and speculate. The picture became almost a story. For example did the orange tiled roof belong to a visitor centre or just storage shed for equipment?

And what if I can’t see anything in the photo?

While being able to see the main objects in the photo helped me to start the dialogue, I think this method would also work for someone who is completely blind. You would just have to start with the very basics. Maybe after a while the blind person could tell the image he or she has in her or his mind so far, while the sighted person compares it to the photo and adjusts the description accordingly. Feel free to try it out and let us us know how it went.

A photo is like a person, you have to spend time with it to get to know it

I wouldn’t have noticed the little people on my own and if we wouldn’t have talked about it in such detail, we both would have flicked over the picture quite quickly. After spending some time with the picture it became more to us than just a nice shot of a windmill in the countryside on a bright summers day. We speculated where the mill is, who the people are and how they know each other.

Nowadays we see hundreds and thousands of pictures in the news and in social media. While it is great that almost everybody can take and share photos nowadays, sometimes I think this mass distribution lowers our appreciation of them. So, if you want to spend some more time and thought on an individual photo, describe a picture for our blog and maybe even do it with a friend.

 

 

 

black and white photo of a blind and a sighted woman positioning a camera to photograph another woman in front of them together.

Common prejudices blind and visually impaired photographers encounter

What’s the point in being interested in visual arts when you can’t see? You should do something with sound instead.

This is an attitude blind and visually impaired people working or being interested in visual media and arts encounter frequently. What’s the point in going to the cinema, a dance performance, a comic convention or an art exhibition, if you can’t see? Especially some completely blind people agree with this sentiment, and that’s their choice. Equally some sighted people enjoy listening to audio books, but aren’t interested in art galleries. My point is that everyone should be able to choose his or her interests independently. There are many blind musicians and DJs out there, and while it is possible that they work with audio media partly because their hearing is better trained to compensate for the lack of vision, first and foremost they do it because they love music. It may be hard to imagine for a sighted person, but our visual impairment isn’t the most important aspect of our lives.

You are blind, therefore you can’t appreciate visual art the way sighted people can.

To be honest that’s a rather impertinent assumption, especially if you have never met me before, and I hope my friends wouldn’t say things like that. Probably all you know about me is that I’m visually impaired which seems to be all you need to know to categorize me. I could be an art student or a visual artist, you don’t know. Additionally, appreciation is subjective and not measurable. People have told me long enough what I can and cannot do.

Considering you are visually impaired, your photos aren’t too bad

This is probably meant as some kind of complement, however a very condescending one. I doubt you could tell the difference, when presented with works of blind and sighted photographers or abstract art displayed side by side in a gallery. Comments like that are the reason why some blind artists choose not to disclose their disability.

You should add that you are blind when your work features in an exhibition, that makes it more interesting.

This ties in with the previous comment and again is probably meant as helpful advice. Nevertheless, disclosing or not disclosing a disability is a very personal matter and we want people to like or at least respect our art, not to pity us.

You won this price because you are blind and the jury was impressed and pitied you.

This is the flipside of “you should sell your disability to your advantage”. Whether we disclose our disability or not, someone will always disapprove of our decision, therefore it is best to follow intuition instead of people’s advice. Many artists reflect on their disability and its consequences in their works. I said before, that it is not the all defining aspect of our lives. Still it is there and we have to deal with it in some form or other every day. It would help enormously, if society would stop stigmatizing disability as something negative; it can also have creative potential. Some great works of art would not exist in the form they do, if the creators would not have had a disability or some physical or mental illness. Disability can be a way through which to explore art. It can raise awareness and create more positive representations.

You should be grateful that people book you as photographer, therefore you should work for free or charge less than sighted photographers.

Firstly, yes there are visually impaired people working as professional photographers. If you book a photographer for an event, you should meet and talk to him or her first. The person will more than likely tell you about the visual impairment; show you how he or she works and bring sample work. If you like what you see and hear, great! Employ the photographer, if not find someone else, but don’t ask disabled people to work for less or nothing, just because you assume they deliver lower quality results or need more time for the same amount of work. This attitude is simply discriminating.

Give me the camera! I take the picture for you.

Personally, I can live with: “Would you like me to take the picture for you?”. I would never give my camera or phone to a total stranger who demands it. He or she could simply run off with it. Overly helpful people mean well, but please ask if help is welcome, before forcing it on someone. I prefer to ask for help, if I need it, instead of being asked at every street corner. The tenth time, I’ll probably react annoyed and you’ll feel rejected and I’ll feel sorry for having being so abrupt later.

This photo is wrong; you missed the main object in the scene.

There is no right and wrong in art. Maybe I focus exactly on what I want to capture. I’d appreciate if you’d say something like: “Can I help you directing the camera towards what you want to photograph?”, instead of trying to take the camera away from me or to judge my art.

A blind photographer? You are not really blind! How many fingers do I show?

This question makes me feel like a curiosity in a freak show. The only person who gets an answer to that question is an optician. But now that you’ve asked already, in fact the majority of blind people are not completely blind.  Most still see some shapes, colours or light.

You don’t take your pictures yourself

By saying this you accuse me of plagiarism. I really don’t have to proof and justify myself and my art before you.

Do you have more examples? Or do you want to write a post from the perspective of someone who met a blind photographer?  Share your thoughts in the comments or send them to us at picdesc@gmail.com

Photo by Stephan Wilke