I imagine I'm not a typical photographer, being legally blind. The more standard "Visually impaired" is used often, but those words imply a lack of a VISION. A better term is “sight impaired”- its accurate, and doesn't take away one's individual, inner VISION. I'm also an artist. A visual artist. Yes, I can see. A very small central area of sight remains when the light is bright. I have tunnel vision, or Retinitis Pigmentosa. I hate that word. It's far too elegant a word for such a devastating, random screw up of genetics. It is getting worse, slowly. No one with RP notices the change much over the short term, its so very slow to dissolve ones delicate retina, a gradual shutting out of the lights. I use a white cane. Why then do I make visual art? Logical question. I didn't know that I had a degenerative eye disease until I was nearly finished getting my Degree in Fine art at the Parsons School of Design. Art is a consuming passion.
I joined a photography class for the blind and sight impaired around 1993, and it was this group of people who eventually started The Seeing With Photography Collective. Our photography teacher there, Mark Andres first introduced us to the photographic technique of "light painting".
As an art group, we've been making these works since 1997. Aperture published a volume of our work in 2002 called "Shooting Blind". This light painting resonates with me. Mind,, hand and instinct all blended in - a few whirling minutes coaxing something from nothing.
The photographers in the Seeing With Photography Collective share an awareness of sight loss, along with the determination to dialogue and integrate our images into a more universal context. Sighted assistants, or members, focus and compose the view frame directed by the blind artist. Then, in a darkened room, we leave the camera's shutter open as we slowly paint our sitter with a small flashlight ...human scaled exposures, lasting many minutes, rather than the instant shutter click we typically hear. Luminous distortions, blurred or glowing forms result from the technique, not digital altering. The nature of our visual limitations can provoke any viewer or perceiver ...Is less, more? What is seeing?