Do we need physical sight to see? To visualize the world in which we live / move through / negotiate / imagine? No. Looking is a practice that is multiple and open to many interpretations. There are many ways of seeing. Those whose sight is impaired or who are blind interrupt our normative viewing practices (and beliefs about them) and have many insights to open the eyes of those of us, like me, who have taken our practice of looking for granted.
The photographs above are part of a series of photos taken by Sonia Soberas, a 77 year old blind photographer who is part of the Seeing With Photography Collective. The NY based collective consists of visually impaired, blind, and sighted photographers. They work collectively on finding the intersections between sight loss and seeing. As they explain on their website (which also has a Braille title), in their work:
Sighted assistants focus and compose the view camera’s frame directed by the blind artist. Then, in a darkened room, we leave the camera’s shutter open as we slowly paint our sitter with a small flashlight ...human scaled exposures, lasting many minutes, rather than the instant shutter click we typically hear. Luminous distortions, blurred or glowing forms result from the technique, not digital altering. The nature of our visual limitations can provoke any viewer or perceiver of these portraits...Is less, more? What is seeing? What does one choose to see?