By Alejandra Loreto and Laschandré Coetzee
“My images are fragile; I’ve never seen them, but I know they exist, and some of them have touched me deeply,”. – Blind photographer Evgen Bavcar
How can a blind person take photos? This seems to be almost everyone’s initial reaction whether sighted or blind. The idea that someone can take photos without seeing was fascinating and that is how the BPP began its spontaneous journey.
The Blind Photography Project was founded in 2015 by architect Alejandro Loreto in Vienna, Austria who thereafter applied the same concept in Caracas, Venezuela in 2016. It was then that Namibian communication and social designer Laschandré Coetzee joined the project and together the developed the exhibition concept, I am blind. The project can be seen as a communication tool, engaging with blind persons from different contexts, collecting their stories and sharing these experiences through the travelling exhibition I am blind. In 2018 Laschandré moved the project to Windhoek, Namibia and thereafter it will move to Abidjan, Ivory Coast. For the project, photography remains an interesting input, but is not the final conclusion. It is a means to communicate our inner views, expand our knowledge of the city and empower blind people to show others the things they cannot see.
By using photography as a tool, in the photo walks and now in this exhibition, the project aims to build bridges between the blind and sighted and challenge common assumptions about blindness. Moreover, the project also aims to create a space for visually impaired people to participate in the creation of the arts and be part of the visual culture. According to Simon Hayhoe; “Despite barriers, photography by visually impaired artists is fast developing new genres in the field of contemporary art,”. The notion of a blind photographer might have been considered absurd a few years ago but as time has passed, more and more blind artists and passionate ameture blind photographers are contributing their unique perspectives to the landscape of visual culture. The BPP therefore contributes to a broader conversation in contemporary art about accessibility, perceptual diversification and the role of the artists and the viewer.
“In this way, image taking is less a matter of the cognitive difference between visual impairment and sight, but a social narrative about the excluded reality of the camera user. To put it another way, they take the viewer not only into the senses of the photographer but also into the social and cultural world of the circumstances that their impairment prescribes and that these artists live within,” (Hayhoe, S, 2015; 9).