Talk about high concept -- how about a photography book by blind photographers? You read that correctly, people who can't see (or are substantially sight-impaired) taking pictures. Not just people, teenagers -- the most perceptive stage of being known to man (and woman.) Needless to say, when Tony Deifell, the author/curator of the essential book Seeing Beyond Sight, broached the topic with the outreach director of the Governor Morehead School for the Blind in 1992, she thought he was pulling a prank. The results are anything but.
It has long been a staple of literature that the blind see more than the sighted -- when Oedipus is blinded, he finally sees; there is a blind seer in King Lear. What's more, modern science tells us that seeing with our eyes, with light, is only one way of perceiving the world -- the very stars we see every night are pictures of the past. We can't see the present. And, as every magician knows, you can't believe your eyes.
These pictures, by untrained, unseeing photographers, are worth more than that. You see sounds. You see perceptions. You see feelings in ways that you can't with sighted photographers -- even the most talented ones. Whether it's Cartier-Bresson or Arbus, these people combine their sensitivity with their vision. For the artists/poets in Seeing Beyond Sight, it's all about the sensitivity. Of course, sound leads a lot of the images -- a barking dog for instance. But other evidences of the heightened sensitivity are in play as well. The crumble of sheets; the thoughts of family; the cold, hard surfaces of an empty pool. The terse captions capture the dream-state. We, the sighted, are given a rare glimpse into the clarity of vision only the blind are privy to. It is a great gift. In fact, it heightens your other perceptions -- a nice thing to do in a world that is all too often led by the flimsy, Hollywood backlot version of reality.
Thanks are due to all the photographers included in the book, and to Mr. Deifell, who had the audacity and clarity to put the two opposing thoughts -- photographs by the blind -- together in the first place. - Ken Krimstein
Mr. Krimstein is a writer, cartoonist, father, and grump who lives in New York City. So there.