Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Seeing Without Sight

seeing beyond sight
photographs by blind teenagers

by Tony Deifell

Imagine a world of total darkness, one where the physical aesthetic holds no value. Sound and smell would be life's harmony; touch being navigation and desire. Such a world would have no place for photography.

Governor Morehead School for the Blind was the epicenter of an idea which was developed and nurtured. Blind children were empowered via the art of photography. They learned to make photos, to develop their film, and to find subjects. These students learned to photograph using their senses; their teachers could then describe to them what they photographed. These memories weren't their own until they captured what they could not see. Once they had their prints they could share with the world the beauty around them (of which they could not or could hardly see).

This paradox is the backbone of this five-section book, each with its own concept of reality. Each section has photos taken by young school children in their early teens with vision ranging from no sight to low. Many of the photos are of daily happenings: photos of the students' parents/loved ones, of their favorite objects and self-portraits. Other photos represent their fears and nightmares, their dreams, as well as their distorted reality.

This 'altered reality' comes as the photographic representation of shadow, sound, and heat. Bouncing sound was the metaphor for how light works. The direction of heat defined the intensity of light (and deepness of shadow). The stories that succeeded the photographs were the retelling of life and love.

I was deeply moved by this book. In a world of beauty and extreme necessity, this book...no... this gallery lives as a compassionate collection of truth and honesty. Fear became understanding, shadows became form, and light was merely a tool- a means to an end. If only we were all so lucky to appreciate photography in such a profound way.

"I was thinking that it would be sort of hard for a blind person to take pictures, but it's not very hard. You've just got to listen."~ John V., student
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