out of sight…out of mind?
The Olympic and Paralympic parade in London a couple of days ago was the closure of an extraordinary summer of British sport. For me, the biggest achievement of London 2012 was its contribution to raising the profile of Paralympic sports. London 2012 challenged people to re-think their understanding and views on disabilities. In my own personal case, it has made me think a lot about blind and visually impaired photographers…
It is not a coincidence that Chris Holmes was invited to the launch of the LomoWall at the Museum of London a few weeks ago. The former Paralympic gold medallist and Director of Paralympic Integration for London 2012, a blind photographer himself, also contributed to the 65-metre long collage of analogue photographs that make the LomoWall. The theme of the display was “inspiring and achieving in London’s Olympic year”
I remember the impact that a body of work by visually impaired photographers made on me at last year’s Hereford Photography Festival – sadly, there has been no festival this year. The work was part of the project Sights Unseen, coordinated by Photovoice in 2009 and 2010 – listen to Gary Waite talk about his involvement in in the project.
At the same time as Photovoice was running Sights Unseen, the University of California Riverside, in partnership with the California Museum of Photography, hosted the eponymous exhibition Sight Unseen.
“I slip photos under the door from the world of the blind to be viewed in the light of the sighted.” (Pete Eckert, Sight Unseen)
Eckert’s metaphorical quote reminded me of the fact than in many non-industrial societies the blind person holds a special aura, a mixture of fear and respect, for it is the blind person who truly sees. The shamanic, out-worldidly connotations of photographs taken by blind photographers are hard to avoid. Perhaps that’s one of the reasons why they are so compelling…
Making the most of the Paralympic momentum, BBC Radio 4 broadcast the program In Touch at the beginning of August. It explored the work of Seeing with Photography, a collective of visually impaired and blind photographers based in New York. On the program, one of the participant photographers was asked how they engaged in the picture-taking process. What he said is something that all photographers should reflect on:
“…you don’t take the picture by looking through a camera…you’re making the picture with your mind…”
What triggers the act of taking a photograph then? Is it what you see? Is it what you think? Is it what you feel? Is it what you think you feel, not necessarily just what you see?
May be the old saying “out of sight, out of mind” doesn’t make that much ‘sense’ after all.