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?

Justin Rumsby photographed holding his favourite package of cereal at his local supermarket which is routinely moved to different sections around the store making hard for him to find. Ipswich. This image was selected in the British Journal of Photography’s 2018 “Portrait of Britain”.  http://gallery.portraitofbritain.uk/portrait-of-britain-book-available-for-pre-order-now/

Justin Rumsby photographed holding his favourite package of cereal at his local supermarket which is routinely moved to different sections around the store making hard for him to find. Ipswich. This image was selected in the British Journal of Photography’s 2018 “Portrait of Britain”. http://gallery.portraitofbritain.uk/portrait-of-britain-book-available-for-pre-order-now/

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.

Blind since birth, 27 year old Edward Bates photographed at his home he shares with his mother in Norfolk.

Blind since birth, 27 year old Edward Bates photographed at his home he shares with his mother in Norfolk.

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.

Notes on Blindness - Clare Burham-2 copy.jpg

27 year old Clare Burham who lost her sight during her teenage years, photographed in her home in Ipswich.

Clare with her beloved guide dog Saffron photographed in her local town centre. This image was a selected winner in the “Faces for Life” category - Life -Framer competition.  https://www.life-framer.com/faces-of-life-2018/

Clare with her beloved guide dog Saffron photographed in her local town centre. This image was a selected winner in the “Faces for Life” category - Life -Framer competition. https://www.life-framer.com/faces-of-life-2018/

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.   

16 year old Adam Hutton photographed with his full time carer and mother Claire, near their home in Ipswich.

16 year old Adam Hutton photographed with his full time carer and mother Claire, near their home in Ipswich.

Adam photographed working as a trainee Chef at the Alex Restaurant, on the Felixstowe Seafront, Suffolk.

Adam photographed working as a trainee Chef at the Alex Restaurant, on the Felixstowe Seafront, Suffolk.

One of my subjects mentioned to me, 'When I close my front door and step outside, its like I'm going into battle'.  

Emma Free and her Guide Dog Lucy waiting for a bus, one of her most dreaded tasks.

Emma Free and her Guide Dog Lucy waiting for a bus, one of her most dreaded tasks.

Carolyn (right) and her elder Sister Elizabeth. This image was taken in a vast empty car park, part-guide and part-experimentation, to signify their learnt knowledge of 'echolocation' which can be best described as spatial representation. “I use my senses to navigate myself around obstacles that are in my path, it’s a skill I’ve learnt since losing my sight”. Carolyn tells me how she can also use sound, smell and even the sun to find which direction to move in. ‘You become more aware of your surroundings over the years while you adjust to life without sight’. The use of the car park was primarily to get a reaction, I wanted to evoke a little apprehension, my attempt to re-enact or interpret the notion of fiction meeting reality. Elizabeth adds, 'There’s no building line, I can’t tell where we should walk?’ She goes on to say, ‘The panic sets in because they are no markers, no sound, there’s a heightened sense of isolation and vulnerability, it like shouting at the top of your voice but no-one can hear you’.

Carolyn (right) and her elder Sister Elizabeth. This image was taken in a vast empty car park, part-guide and part-experimentation, to signify their learnt knowledge of 'echolocation' which can be best described as spatial representation. “I use my senses to navigate myself around obstacles that are in my path, it’s a skill I’ve learnt since losing my sight”. Carolyn tells me how she can also use sound, smell and even the sun to find which direction to move in. ‘You become more aware of your surroundings over the years while you adjust to life without sight’. The use of the car park was primarily to get a reaction, I wanted to evoke a little apprehension, my attempt to re-enact or interpret the notion of fiction meeting reality. Elizabeth adds, 'There’s no building line, I can’t tell where we should walk?’ She goes on to say, ‘The panic sets in because they are no markers, no sound, there’s a heightened sense of isolation and vulnerability, it like shouting at the top of your voice but no-one can hear you’.


Carolyn Allum and the first days of snow 2018

Carolyn Allum and the first days of snow 2018

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 inside her local Church. Denise’s deep religious devotion and convictions to her faith is a source of great joy for her.

77 year old Denise Tiller photographed inside her local Church. Denise’s deep religious devotion and convictions to her faith is a source of great joy for her.

Denise Tiller ..Notes on Blindness

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. 

Blind since birth, 28 year old Edward Bates photographed at his home in Norfolk.

Blind since birth, 28 year old Edward Bates photographed at his home in Norfolk.

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.  

Clare Burham with the guide Dog Saffron, photographed in her local town centre.

Clare Burham with the guide Dog Saffron, photographed in her local town centre.