News: World Photography Day - The Power of Photography As Told Through The Eyes of Blind Photographers
World Photography Day takes place on August 19th each year, to celebrate the achievements of Louis Daguerre who developed the first photographic process. It was on this day in 1839, the French Government purchased the patent for the process, removed any copyright restrictions and gifted it to the world.
It seems the French Government believed photography should be for everyone, and we agree. Like any artform, photography creates a reflection of the artist’s vision of a subject. That vision is unique to each photographer, and when the photographer is blind, that adds a whole new layer of interpretation.
For World Photography Day 2022, we’re learning about some of the blind and visually impaired photographers who are creating their own unique style of art.
Source: Pete Eckert - Bus Series, Image 2: A surly driver complains when asked to call off stops.
Pete Eckert is a multi-award winning, industry- renowned photographer and he is totally blind. Pete wasn’t always a photographer, and he wasn’t always blind. Originally, he trained as a sculptor and industrial engineer, with plans to study architecture at Yale. When he was diagnosed with Retinitis Pigmentosa, everything changed. Now he realized he was losing his vision, he needed time to adjust and figure out what he wanted to do.
Over the coming years Pete would move across the country several times, marry the woman he loves, earn an MBA and a black belt in martial arts, and struggle to find work. It wasn’t until he stumbled upon his mother-in-law’s old camera, forgotten in a drawer, that he decided to give photography a go, and he found his passion.
Although he can’t physically ‘see’ his subject matter, he knows exactly what he is shooting. He has a clear idea of what he wants to capture in an image. He shoots the images, develops the film and creates the prints himself.
Pete’s impressive career has included shooting for brands such as Volkswagen, Google, Swarovski and even Playboy. He has also undertaken a diverse range of other projects from creating images for a postage stamp for the United Nations to capturing photos for TV show, NCIS. Pete’s work has been exhibited in countries across the globe, in the US, Canada, Austria, Russia, Spain and South Korea, to name but a few. His work has won a whole host of awards and accolades and he has been featured in films and documentaries.
It’s fair to say that in an industry that is often mistakenly reserved for those who are sighted, Pete has smashed down those barriers for all to see. As a blind photographer, he has carved his own path in a visual art and forced his sighted peers to think about blindness. Besides sharing his remarkable talent and vision with the world, Pete also raises awareness of what can be achieved without vision and shows others that photography is an art form available to everyone, regardless of how they see.
Swirling Star by Victorine Floyd Fludd Source: Seeing With Photography
Seeing with Photography Collective
Located in New York City, the Seeing with Photography Collective is a unique group made up of photographers who are totally blind, visually impaired or sighted. The photographers all connect with the world differently and their diverse backgrounds and experiences allow them to produce distinctive images that speak to everyone, whatever their view. The Seeing with Photography Collective has exhibited its work around the world. As well as exhibitions, their work has been featured in the book, ‘Shooting Blind’, published by Aperture and in the documentary, ‘Blindsight’. They also provide educational services and hold workshops.
Earlier this year, the Seeing with Photography Collective exhibited their work in a performance experience ‘Blind Visionaries’ at the University of Albany. Sounds of original jazz music, performed by the Daniel Kelly Trio accompanied the projected images created by blind and visually impaired photographers of the collective. The music was inspired by the photographers’’ stories and by the images they created. Through pre-recorded narration, the blind and visually impaired photographers shared experiences of vision loss and spoke about how the artistic expression of photography helped them discover resilience and healing. As part of the performance, audience members were asked to participate in a demonstration of the art of ‘light painting’, together with members of the Collective.
The Collective are dedicated to education and in addition to the performance, they also ran workshops exploring light painting for photography students and students with visual impairments.
The Seeing with Photography Collective shows us how artists can work together to create the most fantastic art, no matter their discipline, or their ability to see.
Source: Rosita McKenzie
Rosita is a blind photographer and Disability Equality Educator based in Edinburgh, Scotland. Discovering photography in 2006, Rosita unleashed her creativity and embarked upon a profound artistic journey. Along the way, she also learned about how to make her images accessible and began to raise awareness of the importance of inclusive art and accessible interpretation.
Rosita creates fully-accessible, multisensory, visual art exhibitions and offers disability equality training for organizations’, companies and public bodies.
Rosita’s artwork challenges traditional photographic practices and she hopes that through her pursuit of photography, people who are blind or visually impaired can be better understood, so that they may be considered equal in society.
Rosita’s images are often inspired by her surroundings. They are often taken in her local high street or with local architecture in the background. Rosita has a team of sighted assistant technicians who describe her surroundings to her when needed and also help her select images and prepare for exhibitions, but the images themselves are Rosita’s own creations and reflect her inner vision.
As well as her own photography, Rosita’s business also has a focus on accessibility. She works closely with other artists and specialists to make sure her artwork and exhibitions are inclusive and can be enjoyed by as many people as possible. Rosita’s exhibitions feature tactile drawings, audio description, ceramic pieces, music, large-print and Braille text, so the blind and visually impaired community can be fully included in the experience.
Artists and art organizations can benefit from the art braille translation service Rosita also offers which includes braille labelling for works of art, braille wall panels, braille exhibition guides and guidance on presentations. It’s a wonderful way Rosita can share her knowledge to make all art more accessible to those who are low vision or blind.
Through her work, Rosita has raised awareness of the need for accessible art, and she shows them how it is possible. She has also given the sighted world a glimpse into her unique interpretation of the world around her.
Credit: The Blind Train - Elaine, Seeing With Photography
All the photographers we have highlighted have challenged the majority view of what photography looks like and who can participate. Pete, Rosita and the photographers of the Collective, all present their remarkable creativity and talent to the world, in a way, that perhaps is too often unimagined by the sighted world.