Sight, Expressionism, and all that Jazz

I should be finishing off the work I started yesterday but I need to research instead on a project I’m developing for a particular client group.

I’ve been asked to deliver a photography workshop for the blind. I’m sure I mentioned this a while back and I’m now reaching the final stages of organizing delivery to the client. Photography classes for clients with sight problems seem strange because photography is a visual art. But then, so is painting and there are plenty of blind painters out there.

Photography has always been seen as something scientific and technically challenging and because of this there are many people out there, visually impaired or otherwise, who believe that this is something beyond them. Popular culture and the world of glossy magazines demands crystal clear photographs approaching some sort of hyper-realistic perfection in all situations. Expression is something that is carefully managed and – I want to say, almost staged.

There’s a huge divide between the professional and the amateur. It seems to the amateur that the only way to be more professional is to buy more technical and scientific equipment and learn how to become more skilled with these expensive devices. We assume that the camera never lies because it shows everything to be as it should be; a staged hyper-realism, a ‘perfect’ photograph bringing us a taste of an unobtainably perfect life. Surely if we buy more technical equipment we might be able recreate this state of being? No. This is crazy. To be a better driver we wouldn’t buy a more expensive car so why buy more expensive equipment to become a better photographer?

Photography needs to ditch the charade of being a rich kids plaything and learn to embrace its creative side. The camera lies, the truth is malleable, and the world is a crazy mix of Photoshop and fakery. Photography needs to get off its high horse and realise that it can be just as expressive as painting and just as liberating as jazz. We should take control back and make photographs which are as genuine and real as we want them to be.

Expression and communication are vital. Sight is not necessary to record what is in front of us. We just assume because the photograph is a visual product that our eyes are the most important thing in the process. Seeing is not something we do with our eyes, or with the camera lens, instead it is something to be felt and experienced. The photograph is simply a testament to that seeing. Over here it witnesses how we felt at that moment. Over there it is a postcard to be shared with others detailing how we have travelled in our minds.

Photography should be accessible to all as a means of that expression.

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