Daily Picture Show

Sight Unseen: Blind Photographers

How can someone be a blind photographer? Or rather, why would someone want to be? A new exhibit on display at the University of California Riverside/California Museum of Photography explores these questions, through art created by some of the world's most renowned blind photographers. Evgen Bavcar, one of the featured artists in the Sight Unseen exhibit, says, "My images are fragile; I've never seen them, but I know they exist, and some of them have touched me deeply."

  • "A Close Up View" by Evgen Bavcar. Bavcar's work has been extensively exhibited throughout Europe.
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    "A Close Up View" by Evgen Bavcar. Bavcar's work has been extensively exhibited throughout Europe.
  • "Box Portrait, Jacques" by Seeing With Photography Collective. Sighted assistants help the photographers of this New York City-based collective compose their images. In a darkened room, with a very long exposure, the photographers use flashlights to paint light into the image.
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    "Box Portrait, Jacques" by Seeing With Photography Collective. Sighted assistants help the photographers of this New York City-based collective compose their images. In a darkened room, with a very long exposure, the photographers use flashlights to paint light into the image.
  • "Limpet" from the Underwater Series by Bruce Hall.  Hall has very limited sight and his photographs help him see the world in greater detail.
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    "Limpet" from the Underwater Series by Bruce Hall. Hall has very limited sight and his photographs help him see the world in greater detail.
  • "Ultimate Rush" by Kurt Weston. "These photographs are about the realization of loss, about losing your facade. They say, 'This is your new reality. This is your strange new flesh. Let's take a look.' "
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    "Ultimate Rush" by Kurt Weston. "These photographs are about the realization of loss, about losing your facade. They say, 'This is your new reality. This is your strange new flesh. Let's take a look.' "
  • "Electroman" by Pete Eckert. Eckert first began photographing using infrared, a nonvisible wavelength.
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    "Electroman" by Pete Eckert. Eckert first began photographing using infrared, a nonvisible wavelength.
  • "Big Ol Kiss" by Henry Butler. Butler is a classically trained musician who uses sound to help guide his photographs.
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    "Big Ol Kiss" by Henry Butler. Butler is a classically trained musician who uses sound to help guide his photographs.
  • "Growth Lights" by Rosita McKenzie. McKenzie makes large-scale prints, which are combined with audio descriptions and Braille.
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    "Growth Lights" by Rosita McKenzie. McKenzie makes large-scale prints, which are combined with audio descriptions and Braille.
  • "Connected" by Michael Richard. Richard created thousands of photographs after losing his sight to a malignant tumor. He often spent days studying a location before returning to photograph it.
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    "Connected" by Michael Richard. Richard created thousands of photographs after losing his sight to a malignant tumor. He often spent days studying a location before returning to photograph it.
  • "Hay enlace...Hay Fusion...Hay Interaccion (Oaxaca. Mexico)" by Gerardo Nigenda. Nigenda uses a Braille writer to describe the feelings of his photographs.
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    "Hay enlace...Hay Fusion...Hay Interaccion (Oaxaca. Mexico)" by Gerardo Nigenda. Nigenda uses a Braille writer to describe the feelings of his photographs.
  • "Carnival" by Seeing With Photography Collective. "These pictures that we're taking now concentrate on one area at a time. A sharpness, a blurriness, a sharpness, a blurriness, your eyes are always going from one to the other, which is how I view the world, too." — Steven Erra
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    "Carnival" by Seeing With Photography Collective. "These pictures that we're taking now concentrate on one area at a time. A sharpness, a blurriness, a sharpness, a blurriness, your eyes are always going from one to the other, which is how I view the world, too." — Steven Erra
  • "Visor Vision" by Kurt Weston. Weston uses a scanner to capture many of his images.
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    "Visor Vision" by Kurt Weston. Weston uses a scanner to capture many of his images.

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Bavcar and the other 11 artists featured in Sight Unseen all use different techniques to capture their images. The New York-based Seeing With Photography Collective uses sighted assistants to help frame photographs and adjust lighting. Using a long exposure, the photographer paints light into the darkened room with a flashlight. The result: distorted and somewhat haunting images. Kurt Weston uses a scanner to capture the toll of disease. Pete Eckert constructs elaborate sets in his backyard and uses laser pointers and other focused beams of light to create images like "Electroman."

Close your eyes and imagine what you would want to photograph. Photographing in total darkness allows these artists to control what the sighted may see, and the result is a compelling take on reality. You can experience "Sight Unseen" at UCR/CMP until Aug. 29, 2009.

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