Tag Archives: inspiring people

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










App Review: can Image recognition Apps be Useful to Blind and Visually impaired photographers?

Nowadays the app store offers a large variety of free and paid image recognition and magnification apps. Most of them are designed to help blind and visually impaired people to identify everyday objects such as written documents and household items like cans or bottles. However, all these projects take visual impressions and convert them into text or speech output, which in a way makes them similar to our photo descriptions. Of course our descriptions are written by real people, putting their own interpretations and associations into the texts, and not by machines, using image databases to recognize objects. Still, we were wondering, if some of the apps could be useful for artistic purposes e.g. to help blind photographers to identify what’s in front of their camera or to sort photos after they were taken. I found numerous detailed tests of the various apps, but none of them focused on the artistic aspect.

Work in progress

Throughout the next weeks we are collecting apps to feature in our comparison. The aim is to get a comprehensive list of apps and to test them not on household items, but on photo motives such as landscapes, people and animals and artworks like paintings, sculptures and photographs from our blog. Therefore, we encourage you to send us names of image recognition apps and pictures of the above mentioned things as test motives. Of course you can also do tests yourself and send us your results to be published here. Are there any other apps you use to take or modify pictures? I’ll do my tests with an IPhone and IOS apps, but Android tests are also welcome. Some of the below mentioned apps work with live-recognition, so I’ll try them on potential photo motives.

I’m especially interested in how the apps deal with more complex motives such as portraits, group shots and images working with light and shadow as well as subtle colour shades. Are the live-recognition apps good enough to focus on an object before taking the actual picture? And are apps working with already taken photos good enough to help us to sort pictures or even to decide which ones are ‘good’ and ‘bad’?

Here are my initial lists of apps and thinks I want to try them out on. This is just a very general outline of the test, so feel free to add suggestions in the comments below or e-mail us at picdesc@gmail.com

Apps to test

Some of the apps are especially designed for visually impaired an blind users, others are shopping and price comparison apps.

  • Aipoly Vision (iOS, Free)
  • CamFind
  • Leavesnap
  • TapTapSee
  • ThirdEye Technologies Inc. (iOS, Free)

Test objects:

Naturally I can only test things I’ll find in my surrounding or objects we have pictures of in our blog. This is just a random list of things coming to my mind at the time of writing.

  • Different animals
  • Beach, mountains
  • reflection in water or glass
  • sky, sunset, moon
  • fire or candle
  • Portrait, only part of a body
  • group of more than 2 people
  • tree, leave of tree, flower
  • house, staircase
  • car
  • food
  • writing on a sign or wall
  • shop window
  • statue,
  • painting

Please feel free to send us items to add to the list of apps and objects. We look forward to reading your suggestions.

Facebook Group Challenge: Find the Blind Photographers in “Photographers with Disabilities”

I recommend the Facebook group “Photographers with Disabilities” to everyone wanting to get in touch with other disabled photographers. As the name suggests, it is not specifically for blind and visually impaired photographers, and personally I like the openness of the group. It helped me realize that other disabled photographers require different equipment and working environments to photograph. While I need a big display, speech software or tactile buttons an someone to help me to select the good pictures, others may find it difficult to hold a camera, or to get the right location and perspective while sitting in a wheelchair.

Most members post examples of their work in the group. Sometimes with comments where, when and how it was taken, but without alternative text (caption describing in more detail what is to see in the picture). I’m “guilty” of this myself. Thus, while being a member of this group if you are completely blind, may not be that rewarding, there are occasional links to articles about disabled photographers and discussions about photography and equipment in general. The group currently has around 450 members, but not all of them are constantly active, so there isn’t too much traffic. It offers a great platform for questions, discussion and inspiration.

Challenge: Find the Blind Photographer

I recently posted a link to an article by a fantastic blog called Sandy’s View entitled “How do blind people take pictures of things” under which some blind photographers contributed their motivations to take pictures. Out of this discussion developed the idea to ask EVERY group member to post one of his or her best pictures in the comments. Subsequently, everyone who wants to take the challenge is to like every picture which he or she thinks is taken by a blind or visually impaired photographer. This is not intended to single anyone out and it doesn’t really matter if you guess right or wrong. It’s just to make people think and to show, that after all there isn’t such a difference between sighted and blind photographers. It’s more about the photographs themselves and the emotions and feelings they convey, than about the person who took them. However, to make this  a meaningful experiment please share a picture in the comment to the link posted to the group by Tina Franziska Paulick on the 15th of January and don’t forget to like only the pictures which you think were taken by blind or visually impaired people

Join the Group Here.



Christian Ohrens – Blind Photo and Video Blogger

Christian wearing a shirt saying: "Starrt mich nicht so an ... ich bin doch nur ein blinder Fotograf" = Don't stare at me like that I'm just a blind photographer"

All sites and videos referred to in this text are in German, nevertheless we want to share this interview hoping it may inspire some of you to start a similar project. In the introduction to his blog, Christian tells his readers what inspired him to take up photography and filming as a blind person, and how he works:

Why photography and film?

When I was in college, I worked a lot in audio-visual media, mainly film and TV and I always wanted to film something myself: a place, an interview, anything really. There have been numerous blind people who allowed camera teams to follow them to document their everyday lives. But I wanted to hold and direct the camera myself, as blind director of my own film, so to say.

The resolution to take photos came shortly before my last trip abroad. Why always describe my experiences exclusively in words? The majority of my friends are sighted and I wanted to show them where I’ve been. Why shouldn’t a blind person take holiday smaps to bring home some memories? I also thought it would be interesting to take pictures based on chance and intuition instead of being guided by sight only, thus focusing on the obvious things everyone can see.

How do you take your photos and videos?

I use descriptions by passing people, sounds and landmarks I can touch such as walls, stairs and doors as guidelines. I ask people to describe the surrounding or explore an area on my own and than decide whether a place or object interests me or not.

Christian doesn’t strive for perfect and exact photos. He regards his work as an experiment and the best shots often happen by chance. Through his commentaries in his videos, Christian’s viewers get his personal take on places. By combining what is to hear and see they get a bigger picture.

What equipment are you using?

Currently, I’m using an Exilim by Casio, because it has useful automatic modes as well as automatic corrections on lighting and angle. It’s light and compact. For filming I’m using the action-camera Sony SDR-AS15, which can be easily attached to a small tripod.

How do people on the streets react when they see you?

Many sighted, but also some blind people don’t understand why a blind person takes photos. Often they can’t or simply don’t want to try to understand it and admittedly the way I photograph looks rather random at the first glance. Other people mean well and want to help me immediately. In the past people have tried to guide my hand or even to take the camera away from me to take what is in their opinion a better picture.

“Beware … Blind Photographer”

To stop people from ‘interfering’ but also to raise their curiosity for something they regard as unusual, I started wearing a T-Shirt saying: “Don’t stare at me like that … I’m just a blind photographer” on my photo and video tours. It gets the message across in a funny way without sounding too harsh: We are blind, but we have the same interests as everyone else. We don’t make fun of sighted people listening to audio books either.

Did you take all the photos on your blog yourself?

Yes, about 80% of the pictures shown on my blog are taken by me. I often asked people to describe my surroundings and aim according to them. The other 20% are pictures where people guided my hand or took the photo for me. The photos are as they are: original, no photo shop, no selection, even if one object is depicted ten times, even if it is blurry and even if only a white wall or parts of the motive are depicted. Many of my photos would have been deleted by sighted photographers, but that’s the whole point of my experimental project.

Some of Christian’s Works

He already did photo and video trips to Hamburg, Munich, Cologne, Trier, Recklinghausen, Marburg (all in Germany), Scandinavia and even Jekaterinburg in Russia. He also works as DJ and Radio presenter. You can find out more about him on his German blog and YouTube canal.

translated quotes and photo copyright by Christian Ohrens


Comics Empower – Audio Described Comic Books

Cover of the comic book Wynter

Comics Empower, an online comic store for the blind and visually impaired, makes comics accessible to readers who cannot see them. This includes giving people who have lost their sight, back the pleasure of enjoying a comic without needing someone to read it aloud to them.

Comics are the most visual literary genre I can think of. I remember trying to read them with a giant magnifying glass back in my school days. However, I couldn’t share my sighted friend’s enthusiasm. I never saw the illustrations as a whole, because only a segment of the picture was visible in the magnifier and I had to move it around all the time. If they were printed in a fancy font, I couldn’t even read the speech bubbles. From that time on, I was more interested in audio and later electronic books, where I can imagine all the action in my mind. Thanks to many amazing people I meat through this blog, I now know that blind people can be brilliant visual artists and photographers, so when I heard about Comics Empower, I decided to give Comics another try.

How it Works

To Guy Hasson, the initiator of the project “comics are not a visual medium, they’re a storytelling medium. I’ve always been a writer, and at the very origin I come from prose. And in prose, I can make you see anything and feel anything. So it was easy for me, to translate the visual pictures (called panels) into the story behind it”.

An audio described comic is a bit like a mixture between audio described films and our photo descriptions: a sequence of actions is presented in a series of separate and static pictures. Not only the speech bubbles, but also pages, panels, and texts are described in a way that doesn’t break the rhythm of the story. The description focuses on the plot, without slowing down action and suspense. For example colour and style of the pictures are only described if they fulfil an essential function in the storyline.

Twenty-two to twenty-four pages of comics are translated into thirty to thirty five minutes of audio recordings. Readings also include the letters pages, where the editors, writers, or publishers interact with the readers. In one letter a blind reader tells how he talked with a sighted friend about a comic and was told by this friend that he knows the comic almost too well.

The Story behind the Project

Guy writes texts for film, theatre and science fiction for more than twenty years now. He started the Comics Empower campaign to give real people the opportunity to tell their own stories. He talked to more than a hundred interviewees about their personal experiences with Comic books and heard lots of amazing stories, how people were empowered and encouraged by their favourite heroes. Naturally, the participants were inspired by heroes who resembled themselves. Black kids growing up in a white neighbourhood in America identified with black heroes, lesbians with a lesbian version of Cat Woman and so on. Guy realized how important these fictional characters are in many people’s lives. They are models of strength and kindness and remind us of how much we can achieve even in difficult situations.

Aurora – A Comic about a Blind Hero

But there are almost no heroes with a physical impairment, never mind a blind one. To fill that gap, Guy wrote Aurora, a comic that is published in the audio described version before it is reworked into a conventional comic. Every month a new episode goes for sale in the Comics Empower online-store. Here’s what Guy says about the main character:

Daniel Price was blinded in battle. Yet he is the only man who can save Earth, the only man who can activate an ancient robot fighting machine, called Aurora. He can no longer fly it properly, since he can’t see. And he can’t aim properly for the same reason. But the Aurora is the only weapon who will save the Earth. Daniel will just have to find a way to be a hero.

Unlike Daredevil, one of the few other blind heroes who recently made the news, Daniel has no supernatural sixth sense. Like most real blind people, he will never get his sight back; he has to adapt to his new situation. Daniel is here to show blind and visually impaired children and adults, that they can be super-heroes in their own ways too.

Getting Started

If you’re a complete newcomer to comics, have a look at the free First Timer’s Ultimate Guide to Comics to get started. It will tell you what to expect from an audio comic and how the reading experience differs from that of sighted readers. So far all customers of audio comics are blind, because sighted comic fans still haven’t overcome the blockage in their minds, that comics are exclusively visual. Guy hopes, that eventually, audio comics become more widely popular as Audio books did already.

Writing Competition

For those of you who always wanted to publish their own stories, Comics Empower are hosting a competition for blind and visually impaired comic writers at the moment. Check out the rules here and discover the super-hero in you!

 Twitter @ComicsEmpower




Will Phillips: “I want to be known as a worthy photographer and not a person with a disability who happens to take photographs.”

Pigeon flying from a pigeon hole.

“Wings of Victory” by Will Phillips: Photo of a pigeon flying from the porthole of HMS Victory at Portsmouth Dockyard. Taken with a Canon Digital SLR in sepia.

I met Will Phillips at the photography workshop in Canterbury and when he sent me an email with some pictures he took of me, I asked him if he’d like to give an interview about his experiences as a visually impaired photographer. So, here’s the interview:

How much and what do you actually see?

My right eye retina detached in 2011. So the vision in this eye is distorted. My left eye’s vision does not allow me to pick out detail and has another of floaters. Both eyes are very sensitive to light so a bright day makes it very difficult to see much because of glare. On the reading chart I can make nothing out in my right eye and only the top letter with the left eye.

Did you take pictures before you became visually impaired? And how has your visual impairment changed the way you take and look at pictures?

My eyesight has also been bad from birth but has continued to get worse and I am getting older. My father was a professional photographer so I have been brought up with cameras. I studied photography as my secondary subject with Product Design at Portsmouth Art College. Eventually I got a job as a Collections Officer with the local Museums Service. I eventually became responsible for the historic Camera Collection which I built up over a number of years. I then did a lot of studio photography. This was mostly photographing museum objects.

As my eyes have got worse I did find that the type of photography I liked to do which was abstract was becoming impossible. I was retracted to taking general views of scenes. It is only since I have been mixing with other VIP* photographers that I have found I can again take abstract photographs as well as other types of images. I do not like studio photography, I like taking photographs of ‘the moment’, getting ‘out there’ and photographing something great.

Do you think visually impaired photographers approach photography differently than sighted photographers?

Yes but every VIPs eyesight is different. So I cannot remark on how other photographers approach their work. It is a case of making adjustments to the equipment you use and choosing subjects that you feel happy taking.

How do you choose what you want to photograph? And what subjects do you prefer?

I enjoy taking abstract images, see an object, objects or a view usually close up to isolate shape and sometimes colour to achieve an interesting image.I find you do have to study the subject more intently to find what you are looking for. Also changing the aspect, moving around a scene or object changes your view and you see something to photograph you did not expect. Also luck is a factor in taking interesting images. Being in the right place at the right time to take the perfect image.

What camera types have you used already and what are their advantages and disadvantages for visually impaired photographers in your opinion?

I have used 35mm film SLRs (Single Lens Reflex cameras) and compact cameras. My father used Leica’s. He used for his work a Leica 1 and two Leica IIs. These cameras dating from the 1920s and 30s. I used these cameras when I was younger and my eyesight was up to using the small viewfinders.

My first camera I think was a Kodak using 127 roll film. My first SLR was a Zenit EM. It was nicknamed the ‘Tank’ because it was so heavy. At Art College I moved onto the Pentax MX the smallest manual 35mm available in the early 1980s. All my friends had MXs or ME Supers**. These cameras had viewfinders which made these really easy to use.

I purchased my first digital camera in about 2002. A Kyocera Finecam S3. It is a credit card sized camera with a very small LCD screen but it has a viewfinder. So I could use it for everyday photography. After that I purchased a Kodak EasyShare ‘bridge’. This had a viewfinder and a large LCD screen also a very long zoom lens. I took this to Australia and New Zealand in 2005 and came back with 2,500 photographs. I then used Panasonic TZ2 then a TZ8 compact travel cameras. I had to fit each camera with a fold down shade so I could see the rear screen.

What is your favourite camera, and why?

Difficult question, since I have joined with a group of VIP photographers via Blind Veterans UK and found I could still take interesting photographs I have gone a bit ‘mad’ purchasing different cameras. The camera I bought to replace the Kodak was a Panasonic TZ2 travel compact. I then later bought a TZ8. Then I left it a few years and now have a TZ60 with a 30x optical zoom. Which has a great advantage over the earlier models now having a viewfinder. I always have this camera in my ruck sack.

How do you select the best pictures for exhibitions for example? Do you ask sighted people for their opinion?

I select the images via my computer. Yes usually only my sister and brother in law.

Do you have a special system to sort your pictures in order to find them again, e.g. renaming them?

Only Windows Photo Gallery, then I work on the images with Photoshop Elements.

Do you want people to know that you are visually impaired when they look at your pictures or do you prefer not to tell them?

It depends who I am dealing with. Usually no as I want the image to be judged not me.

What reactions do you usually get when you tell people you’re a visually impaired photographer?


Do you think the work of visually impaired photographers is measured with different standards than that of sighted photographers? For example some people might be afraid to criticise your work or they say something like: “It’s good for someone who has limited sight.”

By what I have heard yes. I have had no personal experience of this issue. I think some sighted photographers can get upset if their work seems lacking against a VIP photographer.

Do you know of resources for visually impaired photographers, e.g. websites, workshops and virtual and real life groups and communities?

Look at this website, www.accessphotography.org. It is set up for photographers who have a disability.

Can you give some tips to people, who want to take up photography but don’t know where and how to start?

Get some advice on equipment. If possible make adjustments to the equipment to make it more accessible. Try and get some help from a competent sighted photographer who could accompany you on your first forays into the unknown.

What are your plans for the future?

To continue taking photographs as long as it is possible with my eyesight. Also to have my photographs see by the public. I want to be known as a worthy photographer and not a person with a disability who happens to take photographs.

*VIP = Visually impaired

** Are Pentax 35 mm SLRs from the early 1980s. The MX was a manual camera. The ME Super was a manual and automatic camera.

Photography workshop in Canterbury, England: Day 2 Canterbury Cathedral

Our task for the second day of the workshop was to create a photo narrative of the famous Canterbury Cathedral. It was founded in 597 by St. Augustine who was sent to England by the pope to spread Christianity. Due to a fire the church had to be completely rebuilt in the 1070s. Following the murder of Archbishop Thomas Becket in 1170, the Cathedral became one of the main pilgrimage sights in Europe and had to be extended. Becket was killed by a group of knights of King Henry II, who in a rage allegedly exclaimed: “”Who will rid me of this turbulent priest?”. In the end Henry took public penance and Becket was proclaimed martyr and canonized.

Today, the Cathedral is still the seat of the Archbishop of Canterbury, head of the Church of England and symbolic leader of the worldwide Anglican community. It is one of Canterbury’s world heritage sights and the main visitor attraction of the city.

At first we had a look at the outside. The walls are decorated with carvings, statues, towers and spires. Unfortunately, the noon sun was too bright and most of the pictures I took with the IPad aren’t great. As Nadine says in one of her posts, the best time for taking pictures is in the morning or in the evening before dawn.

I liked the gardens with their mixture of decorative and useful plants. There were beautiful yellow roses as well as different kinds of herbs.

 Stem of a large tree.

This is a picture of a massive old tree growing in the gardens of the Cathedral. We were told that some collector planted several of these trees in Canterbury; I forgot who and when. We found a second one in the park near the Railway station. It would have been fun to try, if all the participants of the workshop would have been able to encircle the stem. There were little green shoots growing out of the rough bark, thus the tree was young and old at the same time.

Behind the scenes

We got a special tour of the stonemasonry and the workshop where the stain glass windows are restored. Because there are so many processes going on at the same time, I decided to show this simultaneity in collages. I haven’t tried this before and all I did was placing all the pictures on top of another bigger picture as background to cover the remaining white spots. I used Picasa. The programme offers a variety of photo editing options, but I don’t know how accessible it is for completely blind users.

With my simple collages I want to show, that a cathedral is not only a house of god, full of prayer and history, but also a work in progress. While it is a tourist attraction and a place of warship for many people, for others it is also a place of work. People filled and will always fill the impressive stone building with life.

Collage: construction work

The first collage depicts the stonemasons, their tools and their work. The ancient stone and artwork has to be preserved and renovated constantly. On the outside the modern scaffolding contrasts with the old walls and carvings from past centuries. Usually, visitors don’t get to see that much of the work in progress or the people who do it. We saw carvings and busts in different production stages, as well as tools and the workmen taking a break: reading newspapers, drinking coffee and – to judge by the table in the bottom picture to the right –  occasionally playing cards.

Collage: stain glass windows.

The second collage was inspired by the stain glass workshop. It shows different parts of the windows from various angles and perspectives. The upper picture in the middle shows a lady reframing a window and the one next to it shows what the glass looks like when it’s laid out on a table with no light shining through. It looks quite different and I realized that the windows have to be preserved just the same as paintings on canvas.

book shelves in the library.

Next we visited the library, where the surviving records of Canterbury Cathedral and city are stored. Because I can’t read print books without magnification, I mainly read EBooks or listen to audio books. However, walking through a room filled to the top with book shelves, wondering about all the knowledge they contain is impressive. I enjoyed touching the rows of books, looking at the colours and taking one out to browse through it and to smell the paper.

The most impressive part of the Cathedral of course is the insight. With its three stories it appeared to me to be bigger than I imagined it to be from the outside. After seeing the stonemasonry I was even more impressed how already centuries ago men were able to create such a high and complex building without all the technology available today.

We stayed on to listen to a quire performance. The acoustics are fantastic.

I don’t think there were as many young boys in the performance we listened too and of course a YouTube video is nothing compared to a live performance, but at least this video was taken at a concert in the Cathedral and gives a basic impression of what it sounded like.

In the next post, we’ll visit the seaside.


More posts about the workshop:


Day 1

Photography workshop in Canterbury, England: Day 1

Tina and an older woman looking at an IPad.
by Will Phillips

Our group met in the library of the central campus of Christ Church University,  not to be confused with the University of Kent. Canterbury is a real university town and in summer tourists replace the students.

The atmosphere of the whole workshop was informal and very friendly. As a beginner I didn’t feel intimidated or embarrassed to ask questions and the more professional photographers shared their experiences with us. See my first post about the workshop for some of the participant’s websites.


Everyone who wanted got an IPad and we got a short introduction on the inbuilt camera and photos apps and how to use the IPad with Voice Over. Since I own an IPhone I found the tablet easy to use, but I think someone who isn’t familiar with IOS devices and technology in general might have needed a bit more time. On the other hand they are very user friendly and the ideal device for photography beginners. (See this previous post about smartphone photography.)

I enjoyed looking at the taken pictures on the bigger screen of the IPad. The quality of the display was much better than that of my PC monitor at home. On the other hand it was a bit cumbersome to carry around and I was afraid I would drop it. I think my IPhone 6 Plus is a good compromise. All the same IPads are definitely nice toys.

The History of Photography

After the lunch break Simon Hayhoe, the main organizer, gave a talk on the history of photography. I won’t attempt to repeat everything. His main point was that photography as we know it today wasn’t suddenly invented, it developed over time with different camera types. Here are some of the facts I found especially interesting:

The Chinese made the first pinhole cameras (or camera obscura) 2.500 years ago. Painters like Michelangelo still used them as drawing tools in the 16th century. They reflected their subject onto a surface and retraced it from there. In the 18th and 19th century cameras became more sophisticated thanks to scientific discoveries in chemistry, enabling photographers to take longer lasting pictures and eventually to produce negatives. The word photography – photo Greek for Light and graph for Greek drawing – is used since 1839. With the introduction of the first commercial cameras in the 19th century, studio photography became affordable to almost everyone. While previously only rich people could pay a painter to draw their family pictures, ordinary people too now had their pictures taken. Nevertheless, these pictures of people in their Sunday finery sitting or standing in neat rows were still rare enough to be treasured and to be passed on to the next generation.

Around 1900 the first role film was invented. Most of us still remember the last film roles with 36 pictures all of which had to be developed. My mum used to put them into photo albums with handwritten captions underneath them. Nowadays we take hundreds and hundreds of pictures without even thinking about it. Photo shop programmes offer a much wider range of opportunities to create photo albums, collages and slide shows. I definitely don’t want to go back, but I think it is important to remember from time to time that there is a history behind photography and cameras.


Our first task was to take pictures of each other, trying to convey a part of the model’s personality, which was a bit difficult for me because I met everyone for the first time that day. I attempted to make people look natural and not as if they were posing for the camera. Thus, I made them talk about something, hoping they would relax, but I found it hard to keep up a conversation while looking at the person through an IPad. That’s a skill one has to practice.

Someone taking a picture of Tina. She is framed by the IPad.
by Mark Pile

Finally, we looked at inspiring photos other blind photographers made and Simon encouraged us to take selfies. Although, I don’t like selfies particularly, it was fun to apply special effect filters to my face, until I was unrecognizable; in fact it is even hard to discover the outlines of a face in some of the pictures. I felt like a child in a mirror cabinet.

While taking selfies, I found another great advantage of the IPad for me: I can see my face in the front camera even when I hold it at an arms length away from me, whereas when using devices with smaller displays I often don’t get my whole face.

We attached my IPad to a projector, so that I could see what was in front of the camera projected on the wall. It was a strange sensation to see my face that close up in the middle of the room for everyone to see, but fascinating all the same. I tried to take pselfies from unusual perspectives. For this one I held the IPad behind me to take a picture of my profile.

Tina in profile

A bit of sightseeing

After our first day’s work, we strolled out into the sunny afternoon to explore the city. Unfortunately, by the time we finished in the afternoons most sights and museums were about to close. We managed to visit St. Augustin’s Abbey, or the ruins that are left of it. It offers an audio guide, telling visitors about the various buildings and the history of the Abbey in general. The original Abbey was founded shortly after AD 597 by St. Augustine to mark the reintroduction of Christianity in South England.

Ruins of St Augustine's Abbey

There’ll be more about Canterbury’s ancient buildings in the next post about our day at the famous Canterbury Cathedral.