“Don’t be silly. Blind people can’t take photographs.” This is the voice of the Evil One, who sits on my shoulder all the time. The left one, to be precise.
Even if you’re in complete darkness, you can point a camera and press a button.
But that isn’t what the Evil One means. But, even so, just pointing the camera in the general direction of something and clicking the shutter doesn’t seem to be any different from what sighted people seem to do at pop concerts.
So, I guess we’re talking about GOOD photographs, whatever that means.
I don’t really know what a good picture is. I think it should be in focus, unless it’s supposed to be not in focus; I think it should be well-composed, unless it’s supposed not to be; I feel it should have something interesting to say about form, light, colour, texture, or relation. Maybe the last one is the most important. Or not?
In the end, it seems to come down to do I like it? And do others like it? This is what makes a good picture. Maybe . .
So, this is what happens, as I try to get the Evil One to eat his words . . .
I walk through the wood, alert to every movement, every sound. My nerves and reactions are like coiled springs. My camera and lenses are ready to go, and the tripod and lights are slung over my shoulder.
As if . . .
I am in the wood, that’s true, but it could be anywhere. A city street, a bar, a beach, a tropical island (I’m starting to dream now). I don’t look anything like a professional. My pocket automatic camera is in my pocket, where it’s supposed to be, as its name suggests.
It has no extra lenses, and very few controls. The only ones I use are the zoom control and the shutter button. It could be the most expensive and sophisticated bit of kit in the world, but it would be useless to me if these two controls were difficult to find or use.
And, of course, the focus must be automatic and the viewing screen large. I feel the real photographers among you checking their health insurance at this point, for all professionals prefer to use a viewfinder. I can’t see a viewfinder, so I have to accept that I will never look like a proper photographer.
I will always look like I am – a blind person waving a camera for no discernible reason.
Crazy man with a dog!
I just walk along normally. Normal, for me, means limping with two sticks, at an erratically slow speed, and with my mind focussed on trying to stay upright rather than the photographic merits of the landscape.
I see very little that is not a blur, but I know it’s only me that sees the blur, and that other people, falsely, see it in focus, so occasionally I take a photo of the blur, so I can find out later what it looks like in focus, when I see it as less of a blur on my computer screen. But I never see it in focus like you do. It can be bigger and closer, but it will always be approximate.
That sums up the world for me. It is always approximate.
Sometimes, as I am staggering along, a flash of colour catches the corner of my eye. Maybe it is blue. In a meadow? It must be a flower, so I get down on my hands and knees to see what it is. I have, indeed, seen a flower, and, if I am with sighted people, they willthink me very clever. “How can a blind man see a flower?” they will say. But I am not seeing the same flower they are seeing. I am seeing a blue blob in a meadow. I am half an inch from it, and I know blue things in a meadow are flowers. It is too small to be a fertilizer bag.
I take several pictures of it, from lots of angles and distances, and always one or two against the light. The proper photographers call this contre jour. This is French for against the day. Why call it that, when you can just call it ‘against the light’? But it sometimes looks really good, so I do it.
This is how I take all my photos, though sometimes the object is bigger, or sometimes just a splash of colour in the ‘wrong’ place, or something that just looks strange.
When I get home I transfer all my pictures on to my PC, which has a big screen. I don’t delete any till I’ve seen them on the big screen, close up. It is part of my philosophy that, when I select a picture, I leave it entirely untouched. I don’t crop anything or enhance anything. It must stay as the accurate record of that perfect moment, exactly as seen by me. I don’t want Microsoft or Apple messing with or improving my world.
So that is how it’s done, folks. There’s no magic, just a lot of randomness and luck. The random nature of the process makes this into ‘Quantum Photography’! But it works, after a fashion, just as random particle movements make the coherent world we live in.
But they’re not going on Facebook. There is hardly a cat to be seen.