NOTES ON BLINDNESS
Throughout this thoroughly engaging project, I have become immersed in the life of a community that I’ve found to be enriching and enlightening on many different levels. Dealing with a subject which as many emotional, sensitive and inspiring degrees of empathy, I’ve developed an unusual desire in myself, in as much as wanting to explore and delve deeper into an issue that requires, and deserves further exposure to a broader and unaware audience. We, all know how disabling this condition is, but how much do we really know about the unseen consequences of a life lived without vision?
The direction and my methodology for this project changed slightly during my original concept. But while my original theory behind the project has been constant, the execution and the practice moved onto another approach, one which I think helped to hold the project together and made its supposition, I felt, more stimulating and intriguing for me, and I hope the viewer too.
I took a lot of inspiration from artist such as Susan Sontag whose words seemed to resonate with me throughout this series. Her book ‘on photography’ was one of many that inspired my work throughout this project. Sontag said, “All photographs are memento mori. To take a photograph is to participate in another person’s (or thing’s) mortality, vulnerability, mutability. Precisely by slicing out this moment and freezing it, all photographs testify to time’s relentless melt.” Which led me to produce images from two different scenarios involving my subjects, situations that dictate their everyday lives.
27 year old Clare Burham who lost her sight during her teenage years, photographed in her home in Ipswich.
My aim was to construct a series of vibrant images that offered a degree of ambiguity, playing with the notion of fiction and reality, combining a delicate and unique balance between the two. Firstly, photographing them in the safety of their homes or around their local area or environment, before moving onto a public space. This public place that might hold a significant moment of dread for each of them. I wanted to interpret this second situation, one that associated an everyday occurrence for them, but one that I would reimagine the scenario for them. In doing this, I was looking to construct images that looked either cinematic - photographic, one resembling a performance of the truth, reality meeting fiction.
One of my subjects mentioned to me, 'When I close my front door and step outside, its like I'm going into battle'.
I’m not looking to objectify my subjects as ‘Freaks and oddities”, but instead, I’m interested more in the ethnographical, social or cultural anthropological nature of what it is to live without sight. My work explores and investigates the experiences, moreover, thoughts of those who have suffered and experienced the trauma of sight loss. We often fail to recognise what’s right next to us, and sometimes the best stories are right under our noses, it's how one goes about catching that scent. Like Diane Arbus, would took photographs to show us that there’s something more than just the straightforward, principally that there’s another world to be found, as usual, inside this one.
77 year old Denise Tiller photographed at her home in Suffolk with beloved geraniums which she attends to each day.
I feel my strengths as a documentary photographer is one of investigating and delivering visual imagery that leads to a greater understanding of a particular project or subject. A consistent understanding of the critical context is crucial, it’s an essential part of the process and story I’m trying to tell. With my subjects, I’m hoping to impart and communicate not only the concept but also my interpretation of how I want the project to feel and look, including(where appropriate) each individual taking part in the process.
I describe my work as a cross between fine art portraiture and documentary photography, keeping within my desired aesthetic of fiction meeting reality. I personally think to be a visual storyteller; one needs to forgo the dividing line between fiction and documentary, or in fact reality. For me, they all flow into each other, each has components of the other, and it's exciting to marry all the elements together. I love it when these two worlds collide or overlap, creating a new reality for the viewer, adding a dynamic that the audience often overlooks or just fails to see.