My father-in-law is going more and more blind each time I visit him. I am conscious how much his focus is changing. He used to look at me, but now he practically sees through me.
From the time I wake up in the morning until my eyes close in sleep, my life is full of light and visual images. I see what is going on around me, I can watch my children grow, judge the personality and moods of people whom I meet, I can drive a car and above all, my sight is essential for my career as a photographer. How different my life would be if I was surrounded by dark, blurred scenes of mottled grey and colours. Sight is one of mankind's five senses. What is it like to be blind, fully or partially? Is it worse to be blind from birth, or to be robbed of one"s sight later in life through illness or accident?
I think all of us, on occasion, stop to think how our life could be even better than it is now, but, sometimes the opposite, how it could be starkly different than how we live presently. It was on just such an occasion that I wondered what it would be like to be blind. How could I cope with losing my sight? How is it for those, who have never seen at all - for example, how do they dream without the background knowledge stored in their memory? I decided to investigate and try to portray the world of the blind sympathetically with my camera.
I met each of my models on several occasions before the shoot to hear their stories. I had already decided to rise to the challenge of portraying my blind models by asking them to choose a background against which they would like their portrait to be positioned. Later they "wrote" their stories in their own words using speech recognition software and Braille keys on their computer keyboard and also explained their choice of background. For example, Richard rides a tandem through the countryside close to Farnham, Surrey; Diane rides a horse in Cornwall; whereas brothers Adam and David represented Great Britain at Goalball in the 2012 Paralympics; and Maryam has decided to move to live in New York!
Relating to my models was a very humbling experience. Their stories weighed me down with sorrow at their misfortune. But, at the same time it was a profoundly uplifting one. Without exception, my models are shining examples of how to continue living with joy and energy even under very difficult circumstances. One thing I realised is that there are many degrees of blindness, and each person is different. And that although they can't see, their senses of touch, sound and smell are heightened in some form of compensation. I can only admire the courage and fortitude of my blind friends at how they handle their lives in such a positive way.