Friday, September 25, 2009

Exhibit in Scotland explores Braille tactile images

From The Scotsman:

It is an event which really does prove disability is no barrier.

A unique exhibition of pictures has gone on display in Edinburgh – all of them taken by blind photographers.

The Revealed event, at the Royal National Institute of Blind People Scotland headquarters in Hillside Crescent, is the brainchild of Rosita McKenzie, who lost her sight at the age of 11.

Rosita, 55, from Portobello, said: "It all started about three years ago when I started messing around with a disposable camera.

"My husband said he was sick of bringing home holiday snaps that didn't have any of him in there, so he told me that I was going to take some photos for a change. I panicked at first but I eventually found that I could take some pretty good photos."

Rosita soon started taking artistic shots by learning to "visualise" the scene in her mind – researching the layout of the area she wishes to photograph, feeling her way around and framing the shot in her mind's eye.

However, the breakthrough came when she met Hereford-born artist Camilla Adams, 28, who now lives in Musselburgh.

Camilla thought of a way to interpret the photos in 3D form to create a kind of Braille which is displayed next to the original picture.

Camilla said: "I admit the thought of blind photography sounded like a bit of an oxymoron when I first heard about it, but Rosita made me understand it.

"Giving a blind person a camera gives them a great opportunity to express how they 'see' things. With Rosita, for example, she calls the shots. She will decide where to take her photos and which ones we're going to turn into 3D form, and she's able to choose the photo with a short description of the scene. It's like she sees it in her head."

Camilla and Rosita used the techniques they learned to teach other visually-impaired people how to express themselves through photography.

The exhibition celebrates the work of Christine Barwick, Sarah Caltieri, Andreas Gartner, Anne Henderson, Robin Marshall, Fiona Powell and Rita Simpson. All seven are registered blind.

The photographs in the exhibition were taken during three photo-shoots in Princes Street Gardens, Dean Village and the National Museum of Scotland.

Each photographer then chose two images which expressed something special for them to exhibit.

Some members of the group prefer to capture the world as they physically see it.

Andreas, 45, who lives in Gayfield, has created surreal collages of blurred and overexposed images, which represents his own visual impairment.

He said: "I was virtually left without a pupil after a botched operation to remove a cataract, which means my field of vision is milky white, like walking through a fog.

"I don't think enough is done to make art accessible to disabled people. Museums are full of signs saying 'don't touch' but often that's the only way for us to see things and I think we've achieved that with the 3D representations."