If your eyes are scanning these words, you are likely not visually impaired, and likely, given that this is SLR Lounge, spend a great deal of time visually engaged. It’s probably then, almost inconceivable to be blind. Arguably, sight lends itself to integration with the other senses more so than the others themselves. How can one compensate for a lack of sight?
There seems a tendency to illustrate the blind in a manner of extremes. That they are either desperate and debilitated persons who must be held and guided through even the most basic of life’s events, such as eating, or walking from room to room, with no more purpose than to while the days away trying to appreciate the mundane. On the other end, almost savant-like with other abilities, and oracle-like perspective and insight, not bestowed to those of us who can see. What’s not often shown, is the utter normality of the life of the blind. Its delicate nature though, almost elegant, displayed so well in ‘Blind,’ the series by photographer Julia Fullerton-Batten.
Fullerton-Batten creates real intimacy with her subjects by spending days with each before even a single photo was taken. Furthermore, it was the discretion of the subject to be part of the creative process, and having them choose the location for the shoot. The personality of the individuals thus become all the more apparent. Using a fine art approach, Batten takes the shades off, and shed some light onto her subjects as people, rather than cases. The subjects range widely in demographic, and all have some degree of visual impairment, from total blindness either from birth or after, or partial loss of sight.
Fullerton-Batten was witness to her own father-in-law’s dealing with degrading eyesight, and she began to pontificate, “How different my life would be if I was surrounded by dark, blurred scenes of mottled grey and colours. Sight is one of mankind’s five senses. What is it like to be blind, fully or partially? Is it worse to be blind from birth, or to be robbed of one’s sight later in life through illness or accident?”
I think this personal experience comes across in the work. It just feels more grounded, and less speculatory. It’s very curious, and humbling at the same time. It pulls to mind this message from perhaps one of the most famous and sensory impoverished people, Helen Keller,
Death is no more than passing from one room into another. But there’s a difference for me, you know. Because in that other room I shall be able to see.
Julia’s body of work is lengthy and impressive. You can find much more of it here at her site.