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Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Blind Sight

Why would a group of visually impaired people walk the streets of Mumbai trying to capture its famous landmarks? Why would they risk capturing images that they can never see?

Written by Premankur Biswas |
March 30, 2009 3:30:10 am

Why would a group of visually impaired people walk the streets of Mumbai trying to capture its famous landmarks? Why would they risk capturing images that they can never see? And why indeed,would they want to romance photography,an essentially visual medium? Maybe renowned Paris-based photographer,Evgen Bavcar,who is also visually impaired,has the most potent answer to tehse questions. Having taken a picture of a girl who he was in love with,he had famously stated that it was the pleasure of capturing something that did not belong to him,of possessing something that he could not see,that drove him to photography.

The students Mumbai’s Victoria Memorial School for the Blind may or may not have been driven by such passions,but their love for the medium seems to be equally powerful. Beyond Sight,a traveling exhibition of photographs taken by these visually impaired students and was on display at the Academy of Fine Arts last week,certainly proved so.

Beyond Sight proves that photography isn’t always about seeing through eyes,it’s more about creating a mental image. How else will you explain Mahesh Umrrania’s (who lost sight completely when he was very young) experiment with the camera? The exquisite interplay of light and shadow lends drama to the photo where Umrannia very cleverly captures the shadow of a tree on a footpath. “I would manage to touch the lower branches of the tree and feel the warmth of summer sun over my head,and imagined the ‘designer’ shadow before clicking,” says Umrannia.

Very much in the vein of contemporary art,these photographs seem to ceaselessly interrogates its own conditions of possibility. They are not driven by the visual dynamics of the subject. Rahul Shirshat,who was born blind,explains his blurry snapshot of a staircase- “For me the staircase is tactile pattern of steps. By taking the photograph of my first step out on the staircase,I have captured the reunion of tactile and visual patterns.”

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Similarly,Sujit Chaurasia’s (who was born blind) photographs of disembodied hands held out against a green lawn being watered by a sprinkler,is all about touch and sound. “I followed the direction of the water and clapping sound made by my friends to take this picture,” he says.

The inspiration behind this endeavour ,claims photographer Partho Bhowmick who conducted a workshop on photography for the students of the Victoria Memorial School,was of course,Bavcar,and the exhibition embodies his philosophies. This exhibition also reinstates the fact that the creative act of these visually impaired photographers is in itself a work of art.

For blindness,as Bavcar claims,is the necessary condition for any photographic inclination. It enables the photographer to treat the composition as a conceptual structure than just a pictorial depiction.

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