Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Blind with Camera and creating beautiful art

Photo by Mahesh Umrrania, who lost sight in both eyes as a boy.
He currently studies Indian classical music at Bombay University.

Thanks to the My India Report blog for reminding me about Blind with Camera, an innovative program in which visually impaired people are taught photography. Sighted people may not "get it," but this is an excellent way for people who are visually impaired to tap into their creativity and imagination.

Founded by artist Partho Bhowmick, the program works with students at Victoria Memorial School for the Blind in Mumbai. He says, "the project aims to establish that photography can be made with the mind as much as it is made by the eyes, to redefine the common notion that 'to see is to photograph and to photograph is to see' and to help to change social perceptions towards visually impaired people."

He explains that the photos created are a new kind of art: "Visually impaired photographers are authors of a 'new’ visual language with ‘no’ predefined visual grammar; it demands a new way of ‘reading,’ with openness of mind."

Bhowmick says the inspiration for the program came from similar projects all around the world: Japan hosts an annual photo competition for visually impaired people; the Aperture Foundation in NY City published a book called Shooting Blind in 2005; and the UK group called BlindArt has celebrated visual art by visually impaired artists for more than a decade. He hopes Blind with Camera will promote disability arts culture throughout India.

In you are in the USA and want to see photos by blind people in person, you might find a Seeing Beyond Sight exhibit near you. It features photos by blind teenagers and has been touring U.S. museums. A book by the same name was published in April 2007 by Tony Deifell, who spent five years teaching blind teenagers photography.