I came across a post by blogger Will called “Blind Photographers. I can’t see the point.” He states in his blog that blind photography is “a ludicrous idea” that “just makes no sense.” He points to the photos of one particular blind photographer, Rosita McKenzie, who recently had an exhibition in Edinburgh. He does not find her photos to be worthy of an exhibition. Will states that he respects blind people and that he values their strength and courage. He summarizes his position “But blind photography? No.” With those four words, he dismisses something I love and, in d0ing so, me.
What I do cannot exist in Will’s world. What I see has no value to him. If I were to accept his verdict – “Blind Photography? No.” – it would change my outlook on life. If the answer is NO to blind photography, then it might as well be NO to reading and there would be no audio books. If blind photography is ludicrous, then a blind person climbing Mt. Everest is insane and Erik Weihenmeyer should have just stayed home. And the newly developed car for drivers who are blind? Preposterous.
If Will’s post is deflating, the comments are worse. One response by Adam states flatly that, “Photography is an artform of that of a visual nature where a photograph expresses what he/she sees at a given point in time. I’m afraid if a person is unable to see, the photograph then has no meaning, or feeling behind it. It impossible to feel the emotion behind a shot if you cannot see what is there in the first place.” I would direct Adam to the blind photographers group on Flickr and ask him to look through the photos posted there. I believe he will find plenty of meaning and feeling in the photos.
Will makes the point that, even with auto-focus, point and shoot cameras (such as the one I use) “You end up taking hundreds of photos, and to pick just a handful of perfect shots?” He is correct with this one. I take a LOT of shots that are complete garbage. After I upload my photos to my computer and enlarge them so that I can see them clearly, I am often disappointed in most of the pictures I have taken on any given day. Is that a problem? The joy, for me, is in finding some beauty within some shots. Many days, I don’t even have a “handful” of usable (much less perfect) shots. My role as an artist is to take the raw material from my camera and turn it into something beautiful through cropping and editing. I love this aspect of photography. I don’t believe that the fact that I delete a significant number of my photos diminishes the value of the final photos that I produce.
I responded to Will’s post with a comment, including some of my photos and links to a couple of my posts where I talk about why I love blind photography – what it means to me in terms of bringing reality into focus. He was kind in his response to me, but I think his underlying bias against blind photography remains. He (and other commenters) seem to accept some value in my photos because I have some sight. I have to ask, Who is he to define the word blind? Who is he to determine who is able to produce art? As a final slap in the face to blind photographers, Will responds to a comment by “Bat From Hell,” who wrote to defend the idea of blind photography. Will sums up his position, “Ultimately this isnt photography in any even remotely artistic sense. This isnt photography for the sake of sharing. This is point and shoot polaroid capture the moment. And wasted on a blind person.” Wasted. On a blind person. On me.
If anyone reading this would like to see beautiful photography by blind and visually impaired photographers, they may visit Tim O’Brien’s website and the Blind Photographers group on Flickr or one of the many other sites that feature photos by blind photographers. The work of some of these blind photographers is gorgeous. I don’t understand how anyone could look at these beautiful photos and not see the point.
The more I have thought about Will’s post and comments, the more sickened I feel. Prejudice and discrimination all stem from this type of ignorant clinging to a biased viewpoint. Will doesn’t see the point of blind photographers. I can not see the point of minimizing the efforts of any group of people to attain delight in life, the world, and the arts. One thing I have learned through my journey into low vision is not to put people in boxes or build walls to confine them. Will can’t see the point of blind photography. The point is to allow people to express themselves in any form that they enjoy. The point is to honor people for breaking boundaries. The point is to set people free. Photography does this for me and many other people who are blind or visually impaired. We see the point. Unlike Will, we say – Blind Photography? YES!