Photography, and by extension all visual art, is the creative province of sight. But what happens if you’re blind? How do you make images in a visual medium if you can’t see?
Twenty-seven years ago, Pete Eckert was fast on his way to a career in architecture when he received the heartbreaking diagnosis of retinitis pigmentosa, a degenerative eye disease that often and quickly leads to blindness. Around that time he also discovered his mother’s old camera — and he became determined to use it. Eckert studied photography as much as possible while he still had his vision, and then he continued to take pictures after he lost it. In fact, he’s gone on to become an award-winning photographer.
In a new video for the Avant/Garde Diaries, the photographer explains that despite his blindness, he has a kind of sight — his own vision of the world. “Sighted people see the world as if looking at a painting,” he says. “I see the world as if immersed in water, so I’m seeing the world in 360 degrees.” Eckert captures these visions, characterized by crackles and spirals of light, in his photographs, which he shoots in the dark, through the use of sound and touch. That process is a big part of the equation — his personal outlet of expression. “The by-product is an image for sighted people,” he says of the photographs, “but the event is an image for me.”