Tag Archives: Dublin

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.

 

Review: „The Wake“ by Tom Murphy with Audio Description at The Abbey Theatre

A few weeks ago we travelled to Dublin to see the latest production by the Abbey Theatre of Tom Murphy’s “The Wake”, a play portraying the materialism of Irish small-town communities in the early 1990s. It reveals how far most members of so called respectable families are prepared to go to satisfy their desire for power and wealth.

Accessible Performances

So far 2016 was a great year for fans of audio described theatre performances and I hope the continuing international interest in Irish arts will further not only creative art production, but also help to increase the availability of caption and audio description for patrons with visual and hearing impairments. I have written about how audio description works and the importance of making culture and arts accessible to everyone in a previous review.

The staff of the Abbey Theatre is very friendly and the lady who hands out the audio devices even recognised us from last year.

The Story

To the dismay of the rest of the O’Toole family, Vera suddenly reappears in her home town, endangering her sibling’s plan to auction the family hotel, which their mother left to Vera, in her absence. Vera however is more hurt about not being told about the death of her beloved grandmother. Although she resents not being consulted about the auction, unlike her money-obsessed siblings she does not really care about the buying and selling of property which she calls “the family game”.

While a lot of the time, Vera isn’t exactly pleasant and despite working as a prostitute in New York, she shows more courage than the others and is the most honest of the characters. Aisling O’Sullivan portrays Vera’s contradictory character beautifully. By coming home, the cosmopolitan, tough Vera turns back into a rebellious and vulnerable school girl for a while and seduces her teenage sweetheart Finbar and Henry, her sister Marcia’s pompous Anglo-Irish husband. Reversing the “Windows of the squinting valley”-theme they stage an alcohol and sex orgy in the hotel, with the whole town watching in horror through the windows. In spite of her eccentric behaviour all Vera really wants is to belong. After all, nobody can choose their relatives and their place of birth.

“What other society, town, civilised country would put up with it?”

To keep up the appearance of respectability, the siblings commit Vera to an asylum for the mentally ill, justifying their betrayal by saying it is best for everyone, including Vera herself. Locking up the most vulnerable members of society and those who simply refuse to fit in, has been a common way for Irish society to “solve” its “problems” for decades – Institutionalisation became the most expedient and profitable response to poverty, illness, orphans, “young offenders” and “fallen girls”. Finbar, labelled “Tinker” by the O’Tooles, too is a victim of institutionalisation. Abused by the priest and after spending his childhood in the industrial school in Letterfrack, he is constantly afraid of authorities and wants to be left in peace. While his dealings in scrap metal may not be entirely clean, compared to the O’Tooles, playing monopoly with the town, he is a straight businessman.

Tom Murphy himself is from Tuam in County Galway and according to a screen with a map, which decorates the stage in the final scene, the action takes place there. One of the reasons why the play resounds with the audience is, that the characters appear to be fashioned from real people. Everyone knows or has heard of a domineering brother married to a doctor’s daughter who gets through life only on pills, a greedy and jealous sister and a pontificating Anglo-Irish barrister with poetic ambitions who is too cowardly to embrace a bohemian life.

Humour

However, the play is not only dark, the characters interact brilliantly for some comic relief. Especially the funny dynamics between the feckless but likable Finbar (played by Brian Doherty) and the pompous Henry (played by Frank McCusker) is priceless. Their inability for the most part to understand each others language and thoughts highlights class distinctions, which, although traditionally disputed, do exist in Ireland. The wake-scene is no sugary happy ending, but it includes some great singing, reminding us that these ruthless and troubled people are descended from a rural society, which valued not just money, but also arts, kinship and wakes.

Language

I’d recommend Tom Murphy’s plays in general to visually impaired people, since everything important is expressed in dialogue. I recently read “Conversations on a Home Coming” and while I consider it a great play, read in silence the text became very repetitive. Unlike for example Shakespeare plays which include lengthy monologues, most Irish plays work only on stage. It is spoken language – witty exchanges of one-liners, dialect and colloquialisms, recitations and subtle changes in intonation – that captivates the audience. The language in Murphy’s plays – and the characters who use it – seem simple and everyday, but everything is carefully constructed to present a picture of Irish society, audience members recognise.

When booking the tickets I was told the play contain strong language, violence and nudity. While strong language is almost necessary in a realistic play, I wasn’t sure what to expect of the other two. I don’t mind violence and nakedness, if it’s not just to shock people, but serves a narrative purpose – which it did in this performance.

Audio Description

I thought I remembered the voice from the last time and I actually met the audio describer after one show. It was great to meet the person behind the voice in my ear and to thank her. I asked her if she couldn’t record the AD to make it available for multiple performances. Unfortunately, this wouldn’t work, because as soon as the silences between the dialogues would be a second longer, speech and recording could be out of sync.

There isn’t much to say about the AD. It blended nicely into the background, giving descriptions of cast, costume and changes on stage, while also leaving time to listen to the music. That’s the way it should be. Other audience members commented on Finbar’s comic expressions, when he didn’t have a clue or was too drunk to care what the others were on about. As I do in everyday life, I had to guess these subtleties without being able to see facial expressions and I’m not sure how they could be conveyed through words as part of the AD. The duration of the play was three hours, with a twenty minute interval. And the audio describer stayed attentive during the whole performance, a remarkable achievement.

Links

Abbey Theatre Dublin

see Arts & Dissability Ireland for upcoming audio described and captioned performances

 

 

 

By the Bog of Cats by Marina Carr with Audio Description

I went to see a performance of By the Bog of Cats by Marina Carr at the Abbey Theatre in Dublin. I’ve seen audio described films before, but I was curious what the AD in a theatre would be like. In most conventional plays there is much more dialogue than in films, consequently the need for additional comments may be less. Additionally the actors don’t leave the stage and although changes in the setting are indicated by props and stage design, there is less to describe compared to a film set where the actors actually move to different places, although what is to see on a theatre stage often has a greater symbolic importance.

On the other hand, I’ve been to modern plays where a lot of the action and emotions were conveyed by movement and body language. Because of that and because it’s more fun to talk with someone about the performance afterwards, I usually go with a friend who can describe setting and costumes to me and can give some explanations, if necessary.

The play

Set within a small rural community living at the edge of a bog in county Offaly, By the Bog of Cats contains all the essential ingredients of a traditional Irish tale: family feuds, ghosts, ambitions to gain more land through an arranged marriage, eviction, a horrific tragedy and some humour in between to lighten the mood. Being an unmarried mother and a more or less settled traveller, the main character Hester Swane also embodies current social issues.

Carthage Kilbride built Hester and their daughter Josie a house so that the child would have a “normal” settled life, but now he wants to move up the social ladder* and agrees to marry Caroline Casey the young and rather naïve daughter of a better-off farmer. Consequently, he tries to persuade Hester to leave, but she refuses, despite several warnings from the other world delivered by an American-Western-Style Ghost fancier and the blind Catwoman who has a passion for raw mice and the parish priest. Shadows from the past, her overwhelming love for her daughter and the man who left her, her pride and her rage drive Hester to take extreme steps. A captivating play with powerful acting.

The performance was followed by a Q&A session where the actors talked about their approach to their characters and the play in general.

The audio description

The staff at the Abbey was very helpful and we were allowed to take our seats before everyone else. The audio device comes with headphones and is very simple to use. It is like one of the audio sets handed out in museums as audio guides. All the user has to do is turn it on and off and change the volume.

The audio description was performed live by a woman with a pleasant voice. She briefly described the setting before the play started. Describing the beginning of the play must have been quite difficult, because in addition to what was happening onstage short video clip flashbacks of Hester’s live were projected onto the wall behind the actors. Some scenes were accompanied by suitable atmospheric music. However, even with two ear pieces I had to turn the volume right up at these moments, only to quickly turn it down again when the music stopped.

In my opinion the audio description was extremely professional and exactly timed. The voice in my ear never talked into the dialogue and never gave too much away or interpreted more than necessary. Generally, the sound was clear; only once or twice I heard background noises.

Because the timing and length of the commentary is so important in a live performance, the audio describer is in some way part of the performance; for the visually impaired it is an integral part of the theatrical experience.

I would have understood the play without audio description, but it certainly told me details I would have missed without it and made it easier to follow the plot. I’d like to use this opportunity to encourage more blind and visually impaired people to avail of audio described performances to show the people who make it possible that we appreciate their efforts and of course it’s a great day or night out.

Several plays are performed with audio description and subtitles at the Abbey Theatre throughout the year; as far as I know unfortunately always for one performance only. So if you’re interested keep an eye on the programme. However, productions at the Abbey are always worth a visit even without audio description.