I've produced several photo stories made by blind and visually impaired photographers from Sight of Emotion, a foundation that gives photography workshops to the blind. When I first spoke to students at a workshop, I told them there are two kind of photographers. The first kind likes looking at his/her pictures and say "Oh, I'm a really good photographer!" The second kind is interested in communicating something valuable.
This kind of photography is available to everyone, including the blind. They can't see their pictures but they are satisfied when their message reaches others. Sounds, smells and touch create mental images that communicate an idea or an emotion that all humans can recognize. I've had photography students who could see perfectly but couldn't "see" stories or express a message through their work.
Since I began publishing stories by blind photographers, the most prevalent feedback I've gotten is doubt that they took the pictures by themselves. It made me realize how we unconsciously discriminate against the blind.
Remember that us "seeing" photographers crop and tone our photographs, and sometimes have them edited by others. We even get help with access to what we're photographing. But we assume that the blind must do it all by themselves! No editing, no photoshoping, no producing, no help with access, nothing.
It's clear to me now why the world is so difficult for people with special needs. Fortunately, the blind photographers I've worked with make good pictures with interesting messages, showing that there are no barriers for those who aspire to move beyond mental barriers.
It's been health for me to truly understand what it means for sight not to be the only way to perceive the world and that looking at pictures isn't the only reason to take them. Photography by the blind is a great tool for them to be seen instead of ignored.
Photography student Maritza González once told me during an interview:
"In reality everything is in the mind. If you notice, this chair where I'm seated, somebody one day thought: 'The school desk will be like this, and created it.' It's the same thing when, apparently we don't have sight, everything is in our thoughts and when our mind knows what it wants to photograph, to see, to make people see, it just has to be in our mind. Everything is in my mind and my mind is marvelous. I saw it before the photo was even taken. I saw it. Click. And there's the photo."
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(Photo ©Chico Sanchez-All Rights Reserved)
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