Experiences of visually impaired persons through photography
THE I am Blind exhibition, which opened on Tuesday, could be termed as a true paradox, as only the audiences are able to see the works of art, whilst the photographers who created the imagery are blind.
The first exhibition for 2019 at the Goethe-Institut Namibia, I am blind stems from the Blind Photography Project, and captures the perception and experiences of visually impaired persons through photography.
By using photography as a tool in the photo walks and now this exhibition, the project aims to explore new ways of looking at the city, build bridges between the sighted and visually impaired, and challenge common assumptions about the lack of that sense.
Statistically, visually impaired persons experience isolation, with 80.4% of the 16,100 people living in rural areas. The exhibition is open to the public until 28 February 2019.
The Blind Photography Project was founded in 2015 by Alejandro Loreto in Vienna, Austria, who thereafter applied the same concept in Caracas, Venezuela. It was then that Namibian communication and social designer Laschandré Coetzee joined the project, and together they developed the concept of the exhibition and expansion of the project. In the interactive exhibition, the photographic works by the visually impaired in Vienna, Caracas and now Windhoek, are presented together with the stories of these photographs, but all is written in braille.
The photo without the story is not enough and in the same way, the story without the photo cannot be fully understood.
“Blind people are hidden in our city, so it’s about creating a space and point of interaction which isn’t usually experienced. Every set of photographs will be accompanied by text written in braille as a point of having viewers engage with the visually impaired to gain a better understanding of their reality and experiences,” Coetzee said. In Namibia, the project collaborated with 3 visually impaired persons, accompanying them on photographic excursions throughout Windhoek. All photographs remain unedited.
“Able bodied people don’t actually realise what we are capable of and to be honest, neither did I. I have many visually impaired friends who are crazy about taking photographs and I never understood it, but I have to admit that there is something enjoyable about taking pictures. Even though I can’t see them, it is something that I created and can share with others. This project shows people that we are capable of doing something fun and be good at something so far out of league,” said Leticia Bouwer, a participant in Windhoek.