Question of Senses

This is a serious question.  Are there any deaf artists or photographers?  I know there are blind photographers because I’ve seen their work.  But if someone was deaf, wouldn’t that heighten the visual senses and shouldn’t there be at least a few well-known deaf painters / photographers?  When I think of deaf artists, the only one that comes to mind is Ludwig Beethoven towards the end of his career.  Since he could hear every note in his head (something a lot of great composers can do), deafness didn’t have much effect on his music and when he conducted the ninth symphony someone had to tap him on the shoulder and turn him around so he could see the audience clapping. (I think he had contracted the clap which was the cause of his deafness).  Even with my own musical background, I can usually hear tunes in my head.  And if I were more proficient with writing music, could put them down on paper.  Of course he was dealing with a symphony orchestra.

There are lots of famous blind musicians.  I could list five off the top of my head.  Unlike Ludwig who gradually went deaf, most of the blind musicians (think Blues) I can think of were born blind.  Often Blind is part of their name.  [Blind Boy Fuller, Blind Willie Dunn, Blind Lemon Jefferson] But I can’t think of a deaf artist in the visual arts.  Maybe I just don’t know them.

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Dave

My name is Dave Beckerman. I am a photographer and programmer working in New York City.

7 thoughts on “Question of Senses”

  1. Really – blind photographers? I would love to see their work! I’m being serious… I have often said the one sense I would definitely want to lose would be my sight, as I am a very visual person, and the usual other reasons, also namely, my love of photography, because I felt then I would lose my ability to do it… but would love to learn of photographers who were blind and see the work that they accomplished.

  2. I was trying to be funny. But I did have two people who were legally blind send me photographs. It was a long time ago. They had taken photographs with automatic cameras where what they could see was just a very fuzzy image through the viewfinder…

    That was a long time ago – but if you can see enough to frame a shot and the camera does the rest… it is definitely possible.

  3. Inspired by your post, I did a quick google search and, surprisingly enough, there are blind photogs.
    I found the pictures here http://www.zonezero.com/exposiciones/fotografos/bavcar/ quite intriquing.

    Evgen Bavcar says:

    Each photo I create must be perfectly ordered in my head before I shoot. I hold the camera to my mouth in order to photograph those I speak to. Autofocus helps me, but I can manage on my own: it is simple, my hands measure the distance and the rest is achieved by the desire for images that inhabits me.

  4. Imogen Cunningham did a lovely photograph of a blind sculptor, I have it in a book somewhere on my bookshelves.

    The gone but not forgotten magazine “camera 35” did a piece on on a blind photographer, from what I remember the work was pretty good.

    I wish I could remember the name of the photography critic who did a lot of writing for that magazine. I think he has a web site of all his writings. Any help would be appreciated.

    My wife often accuses me of being deaf. Does that count?

  5. Pat — being deaf counts to some degree. I used to experiment with doing street shooting while wearing earbuds (if that’s what you call ’em) with the music turned up very loud. You should try it. It is helpful, but also dangerous as you sometimes miss some street sound that you would’ve been better off hearing.

  6. Hi Dave,
    There’s a great Australian film from 1991 called “Proof” which is about a blind photographer who takes photos and has people describe them too him. Apparently helps him make sense of the world. Stars Hugo Weaving who most would remember as Agent Smith from The Matrix.

    On the subject of “deaf” photography, I was recently speaking to a very successful photographer who mentioned that when photographing in the streets, he always wore headphones and listened to music. He felt this helped by discouraging people from approaching him and by also blocking out all extraneous sensory input thereby allowing him to focus fully on the visual. Listening to music effectively made him “deaf” to unwanted auditory stimuli.

    Phill

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