A Guest post from Sue Vaile.
I’ve always been an artist. It didn’t matter if it was pen and paper, clay, wood or some other type of medium, but I always had to create, to quench the fires inside of me.
I’ve loved photography since I was eight years old, after purchasing my first camera, a Pentax Spotmatic. Throughout my life, no matter how I expressed myself, photography was always there. I loved it, there was no way around that. Then a couple of years ago I lost my sight. My world as an artist was crashing around me! “How can you be an artist if you’re blind?” “How will I take photos?” I’d given up and lost so much physical ability through accidents, illness and age. But I had always been an artist. I just couldn’t let go of my artistic definition. “There has to be a way,” I thought.
I am legally blind. I have lost all vision in one eye, the result of an infection after an eye operation. In the other eye, I have a very tiny spot, about one or two PIXELS wide, if I shift my head to the side and tilt it just thus. This may not be much, but it is everything to me. In Doctor speak, my one eye is 20/1200. What 20/20 means is that at 20 feet you see what is at 20 feet correctly and clearly. Everything is compared to 20 feet. So, I see at 20 feet what you would see at 1200 feet. For reference, 1200 feet would be about three city blocks away. In other words, I can’t see a whole hell of a lot! And most of what I see is a swirl of light and dark. But I am so grateful though, to have that wee little sweet spot that sometimes allows me to actually see.
Needless to say I had to persevere and find a way. All I can say is thank God for auto focus and these new DSLR’s! That has been a miracle, allowing me to snap photos, then enlarge them enough that with my glasses, I can actually see some of what I am looking at around me. When I can’t physically see it, my mind can fill it in. And please, don’t be fooled by the glasses. Reader glasses can be bought at Shoppers and consist of a range of about +1 to +4. The ones I have are specialty glasses, and comparatively, are about +600. It doesn’t allow me to see large areas, but rather small close up details. I am grateful for whatever I an able to see.
A lot of people call me a fake blind person. You see, even though I am blind, I’m like a sight hound dog, like my old Irish Wolfhound mix I had, as ironic as that sounds. I might not be able to see what it is, but I can see movement. The swirls of light and dark flash around, telling me there is movement. So, sometimes, I get coined the ‘fake blind person’ because I can notice the movement of a squirrel or a bird as I walk around town using my white cane to navigate the world, while having a camera around my neck. I can’t see more than 3 inches in front of my face, but boy-o-boy, with a camera, I feel whole! I may not be able to see everything clearly but I can SEE!
So, I persevered through the blindness to continue to pursue my love of photography and to maintain my identity as an artist. As I was walking near my home, I took an accidental photo of the ground. When I looked at it I thought “That’s how I see the world,” and an idea was born. Today, I am working on a montage of photos, thing, places and people, which are seen as I would see it. I am still an artist. I still create. I still express myself through a medium. And today, it is photography.
I love photography more now than I ever did. It allows me to see the world when I hold up my camera and look. They say beauty is in the eye of the beholder and it truly is. The world is beautiful. Take a moment, stop and look. Really look. There are those that just can’t see and appreciate all the wonder of the world to be seen.