The NYTimes is rightly fascinated by the blind making photographs. Read All About It Here.
And if you don’t have a NYTimes account, you can read the article below.
Photographers Make Art as Another Way of Seeing
By ERIN CHAN
Ben Paige cannot see light; he cannot see anything. But to create photographs — his pictures are haunting, in black and white with light that swirls and sways and sprays — Mr. Paige does not need to see. Besides, in a certain sense, he already does.
Mr. Paige relies on concepts he has already visualized, and on what he hears, touches, smells and tastes, as well as what he remembers from the three decades before his sight went away. Sometimes, he has an idea days before he creates a picture. Other times, inspiration hits him as he walks into the photo studio.
He is part of Seeing With Photography Collective, which works out of the basement studio at Visions at Selis Manor, 135 W. 23rd Street in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan, a community center for people who are blind.
Among the others in the collective are Sonia Soberats, who, like Mr. Paige, takes the Access-a-Ride shuttle to the studio every Thursday, and Ed Bassuk, who has cataracts. He shuffles in each week from Chelsea with his assistant, usually toting a Peruvian felt hat as a prop and a disposable camera for candid shots.
When Ms. Soberats, 65; Mr. Paige, 67; Mr. Bassuk, 86; and others arrive, they navigate six sets of doors and a staircase to reach the studio in the basement, where they find other members of the collective and some sighted volunteers.
To people in the collective, photography is more than a hobby: it is a chance, in a way, to see again. “I put all my heart and soul into it,” said Mr. Paige, who lost his sight to cataracts 35 years ago. “It means everything to me.”
The collective has put together a 54-piece exhibition called “From Within: A Photographic Exhibit of Work by Visually Impaired Artists,” which runs through Oct. 24 at the Hudson Guild’s Gallery II at 119 Ninth Avenue, between 17th and 18th Streets. Last week, several in the collective headed to Arnheim, the Netherlands, to talk about their methods with the sighted and the blind.
The instructor, Mark Andres, started teaching photography to people with impaired vision 17 years ago at Lighthouse International, a nonprofit organization focused on vision rehabilitation. Five years ago, after experimenting with photograms, which are produced by exposing objects on photo paper, Mr. Andres started leading the collective in a technique called light painting. So far, the group has embraced light painting with the zeal of a thrill seeker trying a new roller coaster.
Members of the collective incorporate one another in their photographs, turning friends, many of whom they have never seen, into art. They capture scenes and concepts they have already constructed mentally — for example, confinement in a doghouse, a metaphor for the difficulties of being disabled in a world built for those who are not.
For his part, Mr. Paige wants to evoke fear in his photographs. On a recent Thursday, Mr. Paige set up to shoot a subway ride with three passengers reading newspapers, their heads on the seats beside them.
“It’s the train from hell,” Mr. Paige said. “I do very scary pictures. It makes people stand up and pay attention. When people say `Wow!’ that’s when I know I’ve accomplished what I’m looking for.”
As Mr. Paige sat on a chair that would soon become a row of subway seats, Stephen Dominguez, a photographer for 16 years who has only partial sight in one eye because of glaucoma and cataracts, helped him set up.
Using the collective’s usual method, Mr. Paige left the shutter of his Speed Graphic open so that he and Mr. Dominguez could manipulate different aspects of the scene. That way, they could capture multiple images on a single frame.
Handling his flashlight as deftly as a laser pointer, Mr. Dominguez highlighted human torsos, subway poles and rubber mice. He muted other items, mainly people’s heads. As the lighted items’ images were recorded on the film, the nonlighted heads remained dark. Mr. Dominguez lighted them only when the passengers shifted positions and their heads rested on top of the makeshift subway benches.
When the lights came on, there on the film were the headless newspaper readers with their lost heads on the seats beside them. But when Mr. Paige heard Mr. Dominguez describe the photo, he was not fully satisfied. He started over. After four tries over two weeks, Mr. Paige finally heard a description he liked and declared his photo done.
Ms. Soberats’s intentions are different. She seeks beauty rather than fear. For her, creating photographs has not only instilled a sense of pride — she insists on doing all the lighting — but also serves as a form of therapy. In 1991, glaucoma took her sight, a few months after Hodgkin’s disease killed her only son and a couple years before ovarian cancer killed her only daughter.
Ms. Soberats worked through her grief and found an outlet in photography two years ago. She first came to the class to learn how to take pictures of her family, and eventually found a form of self-expression.
“When I tell people I do photography, they don’t believe me,” she said. “When a person achieves something that others think you can’t because you are blind, you feel it much more.”