The Blind Photographer: 150 Extraordinary
Photographs from Around the World,
edited by Julian Rothenstein and Mel Gooding,
published by Princeton Architectural Press,
The Blind Photographer: 150 Extraordinary Photographs from Around the World I leaped at the chance to review it. This wonderful book expands my concept of sight and has encouraged me to consider—as I never have—its sensory sources.
|Untitled. Copyright Ramón Jiménez.|
I see a composition with three centered circles (their volume isn't apparent) of decreasing circumference, shot from an unusual perspective, straight down. The pole appears very securely upright, but by what means? It's too far from the cameraman for him to hold it. We see the artist's feet: It takes two hands to grip the camera and shoot straight down.
If we with sight put ourselves in the blind photographer's shoes—which we are certainly invited to do—the image is transformed. Then, off course, drinking from a circle makes sense. If I were blind, I would lack the perception of volume. A circle and a sphere would look the same to me. Jimenez was informed by that smell of bleach: In fact, for him, this whole composition is formed around the sensory perceptions of standing on a freshly-mopped, possibly wet, tile floor.
It's not only the smell of bleach, but the feel of the floor under his feet, something he is sensitive to in ways we sighted can only begin to imagine. Will he slip? The stability of the mop pole takes on a significance beyond, "How did he do that?" The floor, which few of us think much about, must be the center of the world for the blind. Jimenez shows what he knows about the floor from the smell, and from the shapes he perceives both literally and poetically. In his shoes, the photograph is a different work than the one we see at a distance, with vision only. We are welcome to a new way of knowing, and a new, enriched way of seeing.
Untitled. Copyright Alicia Meléndez.
That's a fascinating thought: that these photographs don't objectify their subjects but bring them to us through direct experience. If we experience Alicia Melendez's photograph of her shoes rather than look at it, it becomes almost tremblingly intimate. I'm used to seeing images of women's shoes as glamorous and sexy products that place their wearers miraculously "above" any impediments that the earthbound suffer.
Melendez's shoes are shown at floor level, on the floor, as if they walk toward us motivated by the power invested in them by their wearer, or as if they have become pets that come when called. They are scuffed, stretched out, water-worn and yes, we can smell them too. The shoes are a self-portrait in the sense that they communicate their importance and the experience that creates their importance. They are solid on the floor and through puddles; they are durable and flexible and dependable. They are important to her security and to her ability to move independently in the world, photographed as they are on a rooftop, in a space between the outdoors and indoors.
Untitled. Copyright Gerardo Ramirez Pfizer
|Untitled. Copyright Aaron Ramos. Another fine example of|
the close examination. Did sound lead Ramos to the subject?
Imagine the patience and slow movement required to get
|Untitled. Copyright Mickel Smithen.|
formal: Just look at her pose, her position within the picture frame, and her contemplative, far-away expression. But I find her expression a little odd because the pupils of her eyes are unusually dilated. Possibly she too is blind.
Untitled. Copyright Tanvir Bush.