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An Interview with a BLIND Photographer

Jared Polin July 11, 2013 Comments Off

CLICK HERE to see some of Freds Work

Fred contacted me a little while ago when I mentioned something about blind photographers. I was not sure how many if any were around and I mentioned that in one of my videos.

Now many of you don’t know that I was born with a hereditary eye condition that left me having major eye surgery at the age of five. Some of you have noticed my eyes shaking in some of my videos and that was just one part of what I was born with. But this is not a story about me, this is a story about Fred, a person who overcame his blindness to let the world see the images that he may never see.

As you will hear in the interview I was trying to understand what it was like to shoot blind. Some of my questions may seem a little basic but I really wanted to know what it was like. Can you see light and dark, are there shapes there so on and so forth.

The amazing thing is that Fred is able to capture sharp, colorful and well composed images. He mentions how important sound is, because if there is no sound he wont know where to take the picture.

I think I may just have to challenge myself to a blind 5 Min Portait and see what the results may be. See if I can visualize the images in my mind and attempt to capture it. I think I will have a spotter, someone to help me make sure I change the settings properly in my camera. Someone who I can ask questions of and to attempt to get the image correct.

Be sure to read Freds e mail below as it will give you an understanding of who he is and why he does what he does.

Hi Jared,

Here is a small bio of my life so you can get a look of who I am… Born in 1969 in the Netherlands. When I was 9 months old doctors discovered a tumor in the retina of my right eye. they had to remove the eye in order to safe my left eye. When I was 21 due to bad luck I think I suffered some troubles in my left eye. they admitted me in hospital and befor I realised time was 9 months further in time… In that period they tried to find what was wrong and finally they found a kind of tumor in the optical nerve in that eye. from 100% I went to basically light and dark. I believe the percentage is 1/3000 getting the light in that eye (high shutterspeed yes?)
I went to a special rehab-place for the blind somewhere in the Netherlands. Normally it takes one learning everything in the basics during 6 months. but I am who I am and did not like that I was then able only practising the basics. I wanted to live my life the way I was used… Hard to explain but I wanted to be a normal person who did as much as I could. I have a very high feeling of independance… so, it took me one and a half years to reach my goals. especially mobility was high on my lists… When every-one was asleep I went outside learning on my own how to walk on just smells and sounds. It took me much blood, sweat and tears and a lot of frustrations. falling for instance, and throwing my cane away… but in the middle of the night there is nobody who can help you so on I went on my hands and knees finding the cane again… that pproces hardended me a lot and it was good for me…

After that period I was ready in my opinion to go in the world again… do you have geraniums in the US and the allround saying that somebody who doesn’t enjoy life or cannot do anything and sits at home all day…?? I always say: they do not grow geraniums my size… I can do everything except seeing with the eyes. I went very deep and was a baby again when I started but I came out a better person who understanded my self very well and thus my vision in life… whenever one says that a blind person cannot do this or that, I always think about that and do it anyway just to see if they are right… In all those cases they were wrong!!! I learned to ski, skeeler, ride a motorcycle, car… I learned to climb mountains… I learned to ride horseback. Not on the normal way but the way of the Natural Horsemanship… that is without a sadle, stirrups and rains… Just me and the horse…
One day on holidays, somebody told me how sad he was for me that I could not take pictures… thinking about that I went inmediately to a shop in that town… There they sold those throw-away-cameras. I bought one and started shooting. when it was done I went with the same person to the shop where they could develop the pictures within an hour. when he was flipping through the photos he layed some 30 to his right hand and some 6 to his left. When putting the photos on the left he made a sound… I thought, ok, too bad Fred, shooting is not for you… but then he said… Damn Fred, 30 ones are sharp, in focus and beautiful… victory again… After that vacation I went to the photoshop in my hometown and went there with my cane and guidedog. The salesperson asked me what I wanted. I said: I want to buy a slr-camera but when I buy it from you You have to give me a free course of the basics in shooting for free as well… You can imagine his face…? I have his face in my memory forever allthough I do not know if it was correct. He agreed and I took some 4 lessons at his place. Just the way how to hold the camera, some basics in the things to know in shooting photos. but mainly the basics in holding and focussing…

I made various trips to my beloved Scotland and shot many photos over there… Most of them are nice and pretty much in focus but alway in the automode.this because no teacher could ever visualise in my head what would happen when this or that… Until now when going through your guide… I told you that.

People ask what the fun is when you are not able to see the result… I always tell them that it is no different then one who can see… when somebody looks at the photos I made they describe what they see and I am then back to the time and place when that photo was made… It is only that I do not see with my eyes what there is to see. I believe that seeing one does with his heart and not with the eyes…

I just finished the audiobooks of George R R Martin, the epic books Days of Ice and Fire. Not surprisingly when you went doing a critique you told the viewers that one photo was just like a scene out from this books… You even told the viewers that you could see Geoffrey walking there… I inmediately knew what that picture would look like…

I still can not get used to being blind Jared, believe me… Especially not able to have seen the face of my wife and my child… But then again, seeing one does with the heart and I can make my own image of them in my head and it fits their description for me… I found out that being blind is hard sometimes but my life has gotten more value in a way… there is so much more that seeing things when you are living just on sences and feelings the way I do…

Modern times allows one to use the technology more and more. Apple for instance is one of the few who thought about the blind. In every Apple iPhone, iPod or iPad there is a standard function called Voice-over. A speechsynthesizer in different languages. when taking a picture with my iPhone this programm tells me if there is a face being recognised and if I am in focus… My wish is that companies like Nikon or Canon wuld implement a little speechprogram in their products. Because the only thing is that I most of the time need some eyes of somebody when I want to change settings. But I have made it my own to learn every function of a dvice by heart… I count a lot when dialing the wheel on the camera… when shooting landscapes it is handy if there is somebody around to point out what there is to see. But when shooting people it is nice because they all make sounds how small but they do and that enables me to focus.

Lot of things start to make sence now when you are talking in the guide. the way you talked about a little frame to see the world through… In your 5 minutes portrait of Sarah I think her name was… You stand on a little stool (sorry, do not know the word)… You told the viewer that that little higher would change a look on a persons face. I tried this out for myself… It does. your face changes when looking a bit higher… Walking front and back in order to zoom in instead of zooming with the lens… the way you explain then what and why the image would change… the eposode of matrixmeetering, spotmeetering etc… that makes sence now because you tell what is happening and why…

Well Jared, just a little bit who I am and what I stand for… I met the Dalai Lama in belgium where he was giving a speech… He told everybody that one of the most precious and beautiful lines in a human body a true smile is… And when given this smile one had to frame this picture and treasure it forever… that smile was on my face during my life after being blind in several situations… but his words came in my mind when hearing you talk and teach…

there is still a lot to learn in photography but I think that I am on the right track now…

Hope to talk to you next week on Skype… Hope this gives you a little view of who I am and why I do the things I do…


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