Sight Unseen – Photography by the Blind

Sight Unseen, at the California Museum of Photography, is on view through August 29th. This astounding exhibit, curated by Douglas McCulloh, stays with you long after you leave the museum. The images are bold, fresh, honest, powerful and gritty. The fact that they are all created by blind photographers presents an initial feeling of astonishment, giving way to humility by the time you reach the end. I encourage you to read/listen to sightunseenthe essay (yes, logically, an audio of the essay is available) on the CMP’s website. It provides a concise summary of the exhibit better than I can.

Two main questions bounced off the walls of my brain. First, “how did they do that?” I was curious about how the photographer knew what f stop and aperture to use, how to focus, and how they knew when to release the shutter if they could not see the subject?

Second, why? Why do they choose to make photographs if they cannot see the results? The payoff for a sighted photographer is the accomplishment of seeing and sharing the finished product. If a photographer is blind, and cannot experience the outcome, what is the payoff?

The intrigue was so strong, I called Douglas McCulloh to get the answers. He explained that there is special equipment such as light meters that work by sound, focus rails with notches, and measuring devices that speak. Many of the photographers have modified their equipment to their individual needs.

As for the reason why, it is a matter of sharing the images inside their minds. These artists have a running movie of rich imagery they feel compelled to share with us. I must say, its quite a film.

California Museum of Photography – open Tu-Sat, 12-5

3824 Main St
Riverside, CA 92501
(951) 827-4787

by Gina Genis

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