Why Take Pictures If You Are Blind?
Contributed by Lou Smith, Amateur photographer and rehabilitation counselor in Maryland
As a person who is blind and uses an iPhone, this question has been posed to me. The logic behind the question is, as a person who is blind, what kind of enjoyment could I possibly derive from photography?
There are several reasons. First, let’s consider why people with vision take pictures. The rationale varies, but include a desire to share one’s life visually, to show family and friends, or to collect memories of significant events and people in one’s life. A person who is blind could have the same desires or motivations. With the proliferation of smart phones and other such devices, software has been developed to assist people with tasks requiring vision. These include telling the color of a shirt, reading directions, or determining if a light is on or off. I have used my iPhone for all of these practical purposes, and have recently begun delving into photography.
I found an excellent book on the subject published in several formats by National Braille press (www.nbp.org) entitled “Get the Picture” by Judy Dixon.
It has encouraged me to begin exploring this use of my iPhone in more detail.
The first thing that I realized is that while my iPhone gives me some information on the photograph (lighting level, whether the photo is blurry or clear, the presence or absence of people’s faces), it is valuable to seek out sighted assistance for opinions. I have made plenty of mistakes in my brief foray into this realm. I took a panoramic picture of our living room and sent it to my wife who was out of town at the time. She told me that the photo was “various shades of dark.” I was puzzled. She asked me if I had turned the lights on. As I took the picture at about ten in the evening, my error provided considerable amusement. I was so excited about figuring this stuff out that I forgot to turn on the lights.
Another thing I learned is that I have to be cautious about holding the camera too low. I have taken nice pictures of floors, however that was not my intent.
I didn’t realize that most photos are taken with the camera in landscape orientation. For some reason I just held the camera vertically, assuming that’s the way all photos were taken. Thanks, Ms. Dixon, for telling me this in the book.
I quite by accident took a good picture of my cat, lounging on the back of our loveseat. My wife thought it was so good, she insisted I post it on Facebook. I took the picture by putting my hand on Merlin’s head, and backing the camera away a few feet and snapping the picture.
I have always had an interest in what things look like. I believe I am getting a chance to experience my world from a visual perspective through taking pictures. People can describe what my pictures look like, and it gives me a different perspective than what I previously had. I have also learned a little more about visual fields. And on an elemental level, I learned (in a rather amusing way), the importance of light.
It would be interesting to hear about perspectives of others who are visually impaired on photography.