Today, I received a comment on a previous blog post – “Developing Blind Photography”. In the post I talked about working to improve my photography and editing skill, my new photoblog, and a photo contest that I entered and won. The day after I wrote the blog post, GF Mueden made the following comment
This is a mystery. As I understant it, a blind person can’t see, so what is blind photography. Just how much CAN you see? How do you point the camera and edit pictures? It must be that you are low visioned. What editor do you use and is it low vision friendly? What editing tools do you use?
I ask all these questions because my eyes are going and your answers may help me and others with low vision.
To which I responded
Hello and thank you for writing. You are correct that I am not blind. I have low vision, deteriorating because of MMD. Luckily for me, “Blind Photography” is a name given to photography by anyone who is visually impaired. The camera is used to bring the world, which is usually out of focus, into focus through enlargement on the computer screen. While there are photographers who are completely blind, the activity is not so narrowly defined. I use a variety of editing tools. None of them are specifically for people who are visually impaired. I mostly use Photoshop or Picasa, depending on how much editing I want to do to an image. You will find a lot of helpful people in the blindphotographers group on flickr. Good luck with you exploration of blind photography. I hope it opens your world as much as it has opened mine. Please keep in touch and let me know how it is going.
Here is the comment I received today
Blind photography as you describe it is a term I reject as spurious.
As long as I can see to take pictures I will be a sighted photographer. I am not going to try and impress or make it look hard by calling it blind photography.
Wow! I was taken aback and did not know, at first, how to react. I had several thoughts that raced through my mind.
- Blind does not equate with “no vision.” There is a legal definition of blind that includes a vast array of visual impairment. While I am not yet legally blind, many blind photographers are legally blind and yet still have some vision. Do I respond to GF by defending them?
- I am not legally blind, but I have a significant visual impairment that requires me to use assistive technology to complete tasks at work. I use photography to help me see the world more clearly. Do I defend my own self-definition as a blind photographer?
- There are several groups of blind photographers online. I have found each of these groups to be open to and accepting of all people with any level of visual impairment. Do I respond to GF by defending their definition of blind photography or their acceptance of me into their group?
- Do I respond by objecting to the term “spurious” and defend my use of the term blind photography and show that it is authentic and valid and genuine?
- Do I respond to GF’s statement that he is “not going to try and impress or make it look hard by calling it blind photography,” by which I assume he means that I am trying to impress and make it look harder?
I have really struggled, over the past few months, with coming to terms with my deteriorating vision. I have come to a point where I am peaceful with who I am and accepting of where I am going. I am seeking the help I need and finding tools to keep me working and productive. One of those tools is blind photography. GF may choose to define himself as a sighted photographer. That is his right.
For a long time, I felt like I did not belong anywhere. I was not legally blind, but I could not see very well. I felt lost in a lonely place. Now, in my mind and in my heart, I no longer identify myself as a sighted person. I identify myself as a person with low vision, a person who (as my eye doctor attested to New York state) has a strong likelihood of being legally blind within a year. I am not legally blind, or blind, but I belong in the blind community. I have found this community to be accepting and welcoming as I travel toward blindness. No one has ever excluded me or told me to come back when I am blind. Blindness is not black and white, it is not all or nothing. It is a broad spectrum and I fall onto different spots on that spectrum day to day, and even moment to moment.
I do not use a camera the way a sighted person does. I cannot see a clear image on the LCD screen on my camera. I am often guessing when I am framing a shot. A majority of my shots are garbage, completely unusable. I am often disappointed when a shot that I thought was going to be great turns out to be unsalvageable. It is hard work to edit each usable shot to try to make a beautiful (or haunting, or strange, or whimsical) photograph that I and others can enjoy, that brings my viewpoint into focus. When I am pleased with a photo, I post it in this blog or my photoblog.
I am not a professional photographer. I am not even a very good photographer (If you were to look through my deleted photos you would agree). I am not a sighted photographer. When I read GF’s comment, I thought for a minute that I am not a blind photographer. I returned to that place where I don’t belong anywhere. I did not stay there long. I have come too far on this journey of self-discovery to let GF’s comment affect me. I know that my motivation in using the term “blind photography” is not about impressing or “making it look hard.” I am pretty clear on my goal for this blog, my photography, and my life. I want to find the grace and beauty in the world and share it with others. I am not trying to impress others, but to share my discoveries with them. If GF wants to try to turn that into something ugly, that is his sad choice. For myself, I choose love and understanding. I love blind photography. It has created a place where I have hope and life during this transition to low vision living. GF can not close the door to this place. The blind photographers have already let me in.