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The humbling experience of photographing blind people

The humbling experience of photographing blind people

Julia Fullerton-Batten is a fine-art photographer, best known for some of her provocative projects – “Awkward”, “Unadorned” and “In Between”. She considers her current experience, photographing blind people, to be one of the most challenging ever.

We take sight for granted every second of our lives. Artist Julia Fullerton-Batten wondered what it would be like to be blind, whether she could cope with it and how the world looks like for those who have never seen it. She met with people who face this kind of challenge on a daily basis and got to know them, to hear their stories and to portray them.

The resulting pictures are hauntingly beautiful. We enter a world that is equally unknown, strange and fascinating. Julia Fullerton-Batten makes us look where we would usually avert our eyes.

Blind series
Ashar – a young man who went completely blind around the age of 14. The image references a strong memory from his youth, when he remembers watching fireworks. Credits: Julia Fullerton-Batten

Seeing beyond sight: mixing image and story

If normally the subject’s eyes are an image’s focal point, when photographing blind people, one is forced to mix image and story.

Fullerton-Batten graciously raised to the challenge. She asked her models to choose the backgrounds against which they preferred to be portrayed. Later, they shared their stories in their own touching words, writing them with the use of speech recognition software and Braille keys on their keyboards.

The stories told by the subjects are not just that, simple stories about what it means to be born blind or to gradually lose sight. They can also humble us and inspire us to rethink our notion of normality.

Blind series
Nala’s left eye has had severe nerve damage since birth. Her right one is short-sighted. Still, she manages to lead a nearly normal life and does well in school. The background relates to her love of water and swimming. Credits: Julia Fullerton-Batten

Fullerton-Batten – an artist to follow

Born in Bremen, Germany, and currently based in London, UK, Julia Fullerton-Batten is a multiple award-winning fine-art photographer. Her works have hung in galleries form Abu Dhabi to China, being held in permanent collections at the National Portrait Gallery in London and le Musée de l’Elysée, Lausanne, Switzerland.

Fullerton-Batten has become recognized worldwide, due to her amazing three-part project on teenage girls’ transition to womanhood: “Teenage Stories”, “School Play” and “In Between”. Other projects fully worthy of your time and attention are: “Awkward”; “Mothers and Daughters”; “Unadorned”; and, of course, the “Blind” series.

Her models’ candor and naturalness, together with atypical surroundings, ingenious use of props and proper lighting techniques (she may use up to 20 flash-heads to supplement the daylight and reach the expected results) – add to the artist’s easily recognizable style.

According to Julia Fullerton-Batten’s official website, her inspiration comes from the everyday life, paintings of the past, cinema and the works of other contemporary photographers.

For Fullerton-Batten’s following exhibitions and projects, visit her website.

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The humbling experience of photographing blind people