“Though I’ve lost my sight, I haven’t lost my vision,” says Alice Wingwall, one of the artists in the exhibition “Sight Unseen” at the University of California, Riverside. Working off of sounds, smells, memories, the heat of the sun on one’s face, the artists in this show are all without or with very limited sight. They are also highly original, visually talented artists whose internal archives are not always easy to expose. “I photograph what I imagine,” writes Evgen Bavcar. “You could say I’m a bit like Don Quixote. The originals are inside my head.” The paradoxes can be compelling: Gerardo Nigenda, the 42-year-old author of the image above, cannot see the photograph that he has made, while sighted people cannot read the braille that he has placed upon it. The two worlds need each other. This image is from what he calls his “fotos cruzados,” or “intersecting photographs.”
In an accompanying essay curator Douglas McCulloh argues: “The inherently conceptual work of these artists proposes a surprising central thesis–blind photographers possess the clearest vision on the planet. ‘Heaven gives its glimpses only to those/Not in a position to look too close,’ writes the poet Robert Frost.” McCulloh continues: “A blind person pressing the camera shutter is also a political act that lays claim to the visual world and forces a reevaluation of ideas about blindness.” And about seeing.
There is a comprehensive online gallery of the work that includes many images from the artists with, appropriately, an audio guide describing the imagery in great detail. (Thanks to Rikki Gunton for the reference.)