Camera Obscura

Etchings on Zincplates 16cm x 16cm

Printed on Fabriano cotton paper, 60 x 80 cm

‘Camera obscura’ was undertaken in 1998. The initial aim was to create a photographic based project on the theme of blindness, as a comment upon the use of photography as a visual communications medium.

To this end, I interviewed a number of people in Wales, aged from 17 to 94 who were either blind or visually impaired. To each I asked ‘What is seeing?’ This is a potentially difficult question even for a sighted person. Some of those I interviewed had never seen before, others had some sight, some had seen before but not anymore, and others had lost their sight recently.

My question elicited responses from intense and colourful descriptions of visual experiences, to philosophical questioning around the idea of seeing and visual conventions such as aesthetics.

My interest in the theme of blindness stemmed from the problematics I encountered in these conversations; expressing what it is to see using a purely visual medium such as photography seemed to become inadequate. Indeed, to what degree should the artist exploit her own ability of sight and that of the works expected audience against the inability of those interviewed?

In attempting to create a way of describing the experience of seeing, my work evolved into a dialogue between visual and non visual descriptive conventions. I reinstated the old photographic process of embossing to create images that are almost invisible until you get close to them, and rely on the viewer to visualise their content.

White is used, both as the light that results when you combine all the colours of the spectrum, and a symbol of the light necessary for any photographic process to occur. The written word becomes a more truthful rendition of an image.

No claims are made to understand blindness and visual impairment medically; rather, it is presented as an experience. Their experience. Rather than each being confined to a single visual image, each provides the possibility of a multitude.

The descriptions of events or images invite the viewer to project their own imagination of that event, a metaphor borrowed from the old camera obscuras which projected images from outside into an enclosed darkened space