Not blinded by thought or action

An exhibition which has proved that impossible is nothing! Ever imagined a ‘blind person’ taking a photograph? We all know that it is next to impossible for a person who is visually impaired to even take the initiative of capturing the world ‘without their sight’. But, an initiative by Partho Bhowmick is changing the way the blind perceive photography, not as a practice but as a discipline that can empower them.

Visually impaired boys learn the art of photography from Partho BhowmickThe exbihition Wide Eye Open at Galerie Romain Rolland at the Alliance Française which will go on till October 18, occupies ground zero of photography – a subject full of contradiction and revelation.

The exhibition is collection of photographs taken by the visually impaired who have been trained in photography since 2006 under the Blind with Camera project of the Beyond Sight Foundation in Mumbai.

The exhibition is just not about photographs but also offers touch and feel pictures, braille and large print footnotes and audio descriptions too for both visually challenged and sighted visitors.

Talking about the initiative and working towards a nobel cause, Partho says, “My initiative is for those with visual impairment by building capacity for ‘non-retinal art culture’ in India.

We provide training in art, development of creative skills, opportunity to exh­i­bit artworks, equal access to art, economic opportunity for people with visual impairment and conduct sensitisation work­shops for sighted people to bridge the gap between ‘us’ and ‘them’ and increase tolerance in our society.”

The project by Partho is one-of-its-kind in India and was started when he came in touch with Evgen Bavcar, who is one of the world’s most successful blind photographers based in Paris.

But, with such initiative, comes a lot of complications and more when you are working with specially-abled people. “It was not easy to answer endless queries and doubts. My first workshop had only one student. But now I have hundreds of them.”

Talking about his teaching methods, Partho incorporates various audio clues, visuals of memory, heat of light to create the mental image before they judge to take a picture.
“I try and develop a connect between visual and non-visual mediums. The toughest part is to make them believe that they can take pictures because photography is a ‘visual’
medium.”

A visually impaired photographers, Mahesh S Umrania gave all the credit for his new discovery in life to his mentor. “Practically, it was possible only because of Sir. The society doesn’t promote people like us. Initially it was shocking but now after seeing my talent they praise me.” The 26 year old who lives in Mumbai is a sitar player and an acupuncture therapist who wants to make ‘expressions’ as his forte in his new found vocation.
The exhibition was an effort to show photographs taken by the blinds and bringing them closer to the society.

Another talented photographer Ravi Thakur who bagged the maximum applause for one of his photographs says it is more of talent than profession. “I was born blind and Sir made me do the impossible. For me it is like breaking the myth that we visually impaired cannot do anything. There are so many questions that people ask, so this is the answer for all of them,” says Ravi. Being born blind was the toughest part as he did not have any visual memory. “Jab tak hum mehsoon na kare, tab tak koi bhi photo nahi nikal sakti. This is the most important thing that I keep in mind,” adds Ravi.

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