Postcards From the Darkness: The World From the Lens of Blind Photographers
A provocative work leads us to wonder over the porous border between technology and the senses.
There’s always something of magic to photography: through any image, there remains the tension of light and darkness in just an instant of time. An image produced by photographic means is meant to be seen, though it sounds odd, by seers, by those who can see, or – to be even more explicit – by those whose brains can look through their eyes. But if we turn away, for a moment, from the notion of photography as “image to be looked at” and think about the image’s production process (which we might abbreviate to the “creative process”), we can find an interesting aspect of nonvisual contemplation without losing any of the magical properties of the photographic artifice.
A new book titled The Blind Photographer challenges our usual assumptions about the process of producing images by convening a diverse group of professional and amateur photographers (all of them blind or of pronounced visual deficiency). In the book, both who looks, and who is looked at are placed in risky, even subversive, positions, in an attempt to present the impossible: to show the visions of the blind.
Many of the images don’t so much discuss what is seen as they do the way things are seen by photographers who do not see. From abstract and semi-dreamlike investigations, such as those by Slovenian Evgen Bavcar, a philosopher by profession, to others that “translate” somehow, something that only the blind can see, as in the visual poem by Gerardo Nigenda. Here, images of bodies and faces are marked in fragments of text in Braille characters.
Though we often hear that we live under an imperium of images, it’s not always clear that these images are not uniquely visual. An image can be a sensory or neurological construct, the result of processing information through the sense organs, of which the eyes are only one of the receivers. The look, that is, the testimony of the world, is produced at the intersection of sensitivity and the mass production of images. It’s not always visual.
“[…]tend to focus on sight as the only way to produce and enjoy an image. But the process of creating a photograph also involves feeling, story, perception. When you listen to the radio or read a book, you still create images in your mind because we see with our brain. So it is with blind people – through perceiving their surroundings they create images.”
Aaron Ramos, another blind, Mexican photographer, explains that the photographic process involves not only observing, but imagining the picture, so to speak, before its being recorded in the photographic apparatus, and this process doesn’t only involve the eyes.
“I use my senses – hearing, touch, taste and smell – when taking pictures,” he says. “When I touch the camera lens I create an imaginary line from the lens to the object I am taking a picture of; I create the picture in my mind, I feel it and construct it to communicate feelings to the normal-visual world.”
The darkroom reveals, in chemicals, light particles trapped in film. This reminds us that we can see a basic teaching, one present in both Plato and in the medieval alchemists: too much light is capable of blinding us. What we see in the images of The Blind Fotographer are not reproductions of what photographers (didn’t) see, but a concrete testimony to all that the eyes don’t capture, precisely because they’re too accustomed to seeing without looking. They’re images of what’s often left out of the picture, outside the frame, outside of peripheral vision, and offered to the visual / normal world, as Ramos had it. It’s an invitation to see not just with the eyes but in every way, and to engage our imaginations with the memories and experiences of these artists.
Pictorial spiritism (a woman's drawings guided by a spirit)
There are numerous examples in the history of self-taught artists which suggest an interrogation of that which we take for granted within the universe of art. Such was the case with figures like
Astounding fairytale illustrations from Japan
Fairy tales tribal stories— are more than childish tales. Such fictions, the characters of which inhabit our earliest memories, aren’t just literary works with an aesthetic and pleasant purpose. They
A cinematic poem and an ode to water: its rhythms, shapes and textures
Here lies One Whose Name was writ in Water. - John Keats Without water the equation of life, at least life as we know it, would be impossible. A growing hypothesis holds that water, including the
Watch beauty unfold through science in this "ode to a flower" (video)
The study of the microscopic is one of the richest, most aesthetic methods of understanding the world. Lucky is the scientist who, upon seeing something beautiful, is able to see all of the tiny
To invent those we love or to see them as they are? Love in two of the movies' favorite scenes
So much has been said already, of “love” that it’s difficult to add anything, much less something new. It’s possible, though, perhaps because even if you try to pass through the sieve of all our
This app allows you to find and preserve ancient typographies
Most people, even those who are far removed from the world of design, are familiar with some type of typography and its ability to transform any text, help out dyslexics or stretch an eight page paper
The secrets of the mind-body connection
For decades medical research has recognized the existence of the placebo effect — in which the assumption that a medication will help produces actual physical improvements. In addition to this, a
The sea as infinite laboratory
Much of our thinking on the shape of the world and the universe derives from the way scientists and artists have approached these topics over time. Our fascination with the mysteries of the
Sharing and collaborating - natural movements of the creative being
We might sometimes think that artistic or creative activity is, in essence, individualistic. The Genesis of Judeo-Christian tradition portrays a God whose decision to create the world is as vehement
John Malkovich becomes David Lynch (and other characters)
John Malkovich and David Lynch are, respectively, the actor and film director who’ve implicitly or explicitly addressed the issues of identity and its porous barriers through numerous projects. Now