Do you need to see to connect?

Seeing Blindness – a photographic project

A lawyer arrives on set.  I say hello and reach out my hand.  He says three words.  

I don’t say anything, then I ask “Two miles from Revere Beach?” (a beach just north of Boston). Shock on his face, he pauses to think, “That’s about right, maybe two and a half.”

It’s where he grew up, not where he is now, not what he doing now and certainly not what he’s worrying about now.  Connection, solid. Shooting starts.

People say, ‘if you are really quiet for a moment and take it all in, you will see more.’  But what if you can’t see?  

Last month I was shooting a young blind woman for a personal project.  Over the course of the morning I had photographed a number of runners who had lost their sight from various disorders or combat.  However, this woman was different.  I could see immediately that she had always been blind.  I saw it in her hands, the way they moved across the table I had set up for her.  Her fingers were reading her surroundings, urgent and inquisitive.  

It struck me because that’s how I work.  While it’s part of my nature to be hyper observant, I constantly force myself to be aware of every cue that will lead me to a closer connection.  It could be an accent that brings to mind a place, a picture hanging on a wall [like at this shoot], a glance toward a window, or a sentence cut short.  

While I may not be the person you want to notice the unmatched baseboards in your living room, you do want me to be the one reading your subject.  

“You read braille,” I said to her.  Her hands settled.  

 

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