Seeing Blindness was created to force the viewer to see the people not the affliction. It has hung as a digital show exhibited on three separate monitors.
This started when I met a blind man. He was a runner. In fact, he did triathalons. Yes, how? The first day I met and photographed him, we spent the entire day together. I met his kids and learned about his work. He told me about his time in the Marines before he began losing his vision. In the afternoon, he took me to the trail where he would run — on a bright day he could see the edge of the concrete path and would run alone. We then went to pool where he put on a belt with bungy cords and attached one to each lane line. He swam, in the same place, never moving but constantly swimming. From underwater I could see him smiling. I held my breath, and photographed a blind man, swimming.
It stayed with me. Until then, every blind person I saw was a blind person — nothing more. I would see the cane and have an urge to help, I’d argue with myself for a moment, and we would both move on. I have met many people who help raise and train seeing eye dogs, and the whole idea just makes you feel good — just the thought of the dogs. If you saw a golden retriever walking with a person with sunglasses on the street, that same feeling would return. The dogs. In speaking with blind people, you often hear that they feel invisible out in public. If they have a cane or a guide dog with them, people see those – the tools. We do not see the person; we see the affliction.
There are so many sight challenged individuals with amazing stories and accomplishments, but I did not set out to point my lens at stories of strength against adversity. We would see the affliction, and then the accomplishment. We might walk away feeling good, heart-warmed about what someone else did against all odds. But, we still would not see the person. We would see only the end, not the journey.
This exhibit is focused not on stories, but on the individuals — the faces of blindness. See the people.
Who are these faces?
What do they do?
Is blindness all the same?
How do they see?
As a part of this project, I have photographed dozens of individuals with all different types of visual impairments. Some have lost their sight on the battle field, some have rare conditions, some have never been able to see well, while other’s have lost their sight over a period of time. See. Learn.
Robert Houser has photographed people for over 25 years. Focused on health and fitness, he travels for advertising clients around the country. His personal projects like Seeing Blindness and Facing Chemo travel to galleries, colleges and medical institutions around the world under the guidance of the nonprofit, the Facing Light Foundation.