I was invited to participate in a Black and White photo challenge and I accepted (with much hesitation) because the invite was from Grace, who I totally adore!!! But, I was nervous. I don’t take pictures, especially not outside, because, well, I have the whole visually impaired, partially sighted, low vision, cataracts, blindness thing going on. I had no idea what I was going to do.
The other day, I got on and immediately off two different busses (because of the crowds, which is a post for another time) and then on a third one which wasn’t crowded and, miraculously, smelled like roses, not figuratively, but actually like roses. It was air-conditioned and lovely and about two miles into my journey, my Dad called to tell me not to come to his house because their power had gone out. So, I got off the bus and decided to walk the two miles back home.
I started walking and the photo challenge came into my thoughts and I took out my phone and started taking pictures. Here is the process for me taking pictures outside. I see something that looks interesting, but I can never be sure my eyes aren’t playing tricks, because if it is too far away, I can’t really see it, and if it is too close, I can’t see it, because my sunglasses have a very strong prescription. I can’t take my sunglasses off because without them, in the sun, I can’t see anything at all. And I can’t see what is in the view of my phone with my sunglasses on. So, I wing it. I see something and point the camera at it and slip my sunglasses down my nose, with the large brim of my hat blocking the sun as much as possible, to get a fraction of a second naked eye view, and push the button. I also can’t see the screen and the button at the same time. If I am looking at the screen, the button is in a blind area. It is a crap shoot, most often literally.
It turns out that the pictures I decided to use are all pictures I took within 2 blocks of where I live; they are the parts of my neighborhood I see most often. This got me thinking about what it means to see, which is something I think about a lot, and how ironic it must seem that someone who is partially sighted, is taking part in a visually based challenge. The irony is not lost on me, but in a way, this challenge meshes perfectly with my visual experience and with the title of my blog. I truly do live on the edge of blindness. This seeing that I write about is the seeing in-between, and what that looks and feels like. If this is confusing to read, imagine how confusing it is to see through RP eyes? It is painful, exhilarating, exhausting, frustrating and fascinating. It is discovering clarity in ways you never knew existed.
The photo challenge brought a whole new layer, for me, into what it means to see. It makes sense that the pictures that turned out the best are of things that I have seen so many times from so many different angles, and that there was perhaps something intuitive in the actual taking of the photos. I have seen these things so much, I didn’t have to see them to photograph them and could allow them to be what they are, speak for themselves. It wasn’t about my eye. Needless to say, I don’t have a good eye. But seeing, from at artistic point of view, isn’t really about the eyes, even if the art is visual.
Participating in the photo challenge has shown me a new facet to my own sight and to what it means to see. It has expanded my thoughts on sight and actually given me more to write about and to think about. I am very grateful to Grace for thinking of me; who knew a simple photo challenge could lead to yet another way for a blind woman to look at the meaning of sight.