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