Article Date: 7/1/2009

True Exposure
reflections THE HUMAN SIDE OF OPTOMETRY

True Exposure

Photography lets you express your inner vision, a vision more important than sight in defining your impressions.

CHRISTOPHER J. WHITNEY, O.D., F.A.A.O. CHULA VISTA, CALIF.

As a photographer in addition to an O.D., I often read the photography periodical Black & White Magazine. One night while flipping through its pages, I was particularly drawn to Michael Richard's photographs. His story added a new dimension to my understanding of the human potential.

An inward focus

Richard, who died from cancer in 2006, was a rock musician and photographer. After a tumor stole his right eye's sight, his amblyopic left eye focused his world. Regardless, he continued taking pictures, this time capturing unique black and white abstract light and shadows, sweeping geometric lines and stunning urban landscapes.


REPRINTED WITH PERMISSION FROM BRUCE HALL

Bruce Hall captures giant green anemone in motion in the tidal zone near Shaw's Cove, Laguna Beach, Calif.

His work taught me that mastering the camera doesn't require focusing an image through the viewfinder, but rather focusing on one's inner vision.

Developing art

I met other photographers like Richard. For instance, Bruce Hall scuba dives to capture images of underwater life despite his optic nerve hypoplasia and nystagmus. His world is a patchwork of shapes and colors. He focuses his camera lens on gross forms, later using his myopic eyes to view digital images inches from a large computer monitor. Details become larger than life, as he studies sea urchins, colorful fish and undersea kelp forests.

Pete Eckert calls his inner vision his "mind's eye." With minimal light perception from retinitis pigmentosa, he tunes his film camera to his non-visual senses, such as his hearing, to seek graphic expressions of a blind world. He combines his experiences with his heightened senses and imagination to create conceptual art. Using hand-held lights, Eckert reveals his personal interpretation of the world by painting people and tracing their human forms in abstract ways. He imagines, but never sees his final prints.

Kurt Weston, a former beauty industry photographer, lost his sight after AIDS nearly killed him. Blind in his left eye from cytomegalovirus retinitis and having limited peripheral sight in his right eye, his visual world is now an impressionistic painting. Utilizing magnifying devices and special glasses, he studies sections of his photographs. Then, like completing a puzzle, his mind places the pieces into a mental composition to comprehend his art.

Weston connects with people in a personal way: Faces are his specialty. He moves his camera close to capture the humanity of a person's fleeting expressions, revealing the human landscape. In a unique twist, he also employs a flatbed scanner. I peered into its glass, and he was able to capture my soul. My likeness became large on his monitor, as he remarked that a single picture presents only one truth.

Weston's Peering Through The Darkness self-portrait shows him looking through a smeared window, wiping away streaks of foam that symbolize his floaters and diminished sight.

These challenged artists have taught me that life's moments may not always be seen clearly, but they are felt. Photography facilitates feelings, which connect with film and digital sensors to generate inspiration. Inspiration leads to introspection and connects the photographer with his inner vision. This defines their world in a beautiful way. OM


DO YOU HAVE A MEMORABLE EXPERIENCE YOU'D LIKE TO SHARE? DISCUSS YOUR STORY WITH JENNIFER KIRBY, SENIOR ASSOCIATE EDITOR OF OPTOMETRIC MANAGEMENT, AT (215) 628-6595, OR JEN.KIRBY@WOLTERSKLUWER.COM. OM OFFERS AN HONORARIUM FOR PUBLISHED SUBMISSIONS.

Optometric Management, Issue: July 2009