A procession of stately columns. The tracery shadows of leaves. Light streaming through a large open window. A boy cycling on the divider that holds the sea at bay. An abacus. The fan-like leaves of a plant. A slice of the sky seen from the bottom of a spiral staircase. A self-portrait taken in front of a wash basin. These were some of the amazing photographs by the visually impaired that were on display at the Harrington Street Arts Centre where the exhibition titled Wide Eye Open (August 31-September 21) was held.
The world of the blind is not necessarily enveloped in total darkness, particularly for those who are only partially so, or have low vision. Theirs is a world of shadows and half light that allows them to make out forms that they may target their lenses at. Residual sight comes to their rescue. Even those who are born blind have their aural sense to guide them when it comes to a shoot. Ears stand in for eyes. Even differences of temperatures between shadows and sunshine help.
The exhibition was the culmination of the Blind with Camera project started by Partho Bhowmick in Mumbai. Bhowmick, a keen photographer himself, trains these enthusiasts and does workshops for them as well. The intelligently-mounted exhibition displayed colour prints juxtaposed with their raised versions along with Braille footnotes and recorded audio description for visually-impaired visitors to enjoy it by feeling the pictures.
Viewing the exhibition was a rewarding experience for sighted people because one discovered images seen in the mindís eye of visually-impaired people caught with the help of digital cameras. These devices have made things easier for the photographers, particularly when it comes to viewing the images on terminals.
The remarks of the photographers that accompanied each print made clear the entire process of the shoots. The warmth of light, intuitive powers and the tactile senses came to the aid of the photographers. Little wonder there were huge pools of light and deeply contrasting shadows in one photograph, and in another print, the photographer got the Ďfeelí of the staircase he shot when its repetitive pattern was drawn on his hand. Another photographer got the structure of the fantail-like leaves of a plant. A born blind photographer used the sound of the sea as his clue when he clicked the cyclist (picture). Some of the images had a strong graphic quality as the photographers could grasp the underlying pattern of any subject.
The photographers were mostly from low-income groups and were a mix of blind and low-vision people. Memories of faces get wiped out first. When a visually-impaired person takes a self-portrait, that leads to self-realization. The exhibition was an exercise in discovering hidden potential.