The sense of sight and the act of taking good pictures seem to be inextricably linked. Most cannot fathom the concept of a person who cannot see holding a camera, much less the idea of an entire photography exhibition dedicated to over 70 photographs by visually impaired photographers.
The exhibition, held in conjunction with Malaysia Day, is titled Sensory Photography — for our new Malaysia, and is running from the 8th to 27th of September at RUANG by Think City. It aims to showcase the works of visually impaired photographers who wish to break the norm of visual prejudices and common perceptions of what photography is.
The exhibition was stemmed from the collaborative efforts of Plus Community Partnership, Malaysian Association for the Blind and Studi DL, who together conducted a ten-week long Sensory Photography programme. The programme aimed to teach the visually impaired community the art of photography and to celebrate the counter-intuitive world of sensory photography.
The first-of-its-kind programme was also lead by renowned local photographer David Lok, who tutored and devised a handbook on teaching his students what is normally a visually-dependent art form. The programme was designed to empower the visually impaired community with a skill most would consider foreign to them and offer them an artistic perspective in a world that inclines to the sighted.
The exhibition featured the works of seven photographers, each classified according to the degree of their visual impairment. B1 refers to those with total blindness, B2 refers to those who have partial vision of shadows and movement and B3 refers to those with severely low or tunnel vision. With their varying degrees of impairment, the students of the programme have to rely on their other heightened senses to capture stories they wish to tell.
Commenting on the programme, David said that “Blind photography is relatively new in Malaysia, and we’re hoping this pilot will continue to run and subsequently be streamlines. These students have their own vision and story that they want to communicate to the world. All we had to do was to provide them the platform and resources to do so by teaching them to utilise the technology readily available in cameras to find their own voice.”
The featured photographers included Vivian Kwek Chu Lan (B3), Ahar Bin Tabe (B2), Suzi Ng (B2), Rashidi Bin Abdullah (B3), Jamaliah Bte Mohd Yassin (B1), Theng Sze Young (B1) and Svivabalan A/L Selvarajan (B2), who each had their own selection of pictures up for display. Some pictures were also then incorporated into a textile exhibition, where audiences were invited to experience photography using the sense of sound and touch, recreating the experiences of the photographer.
Deputy Women, Community and Family Development Minister, YB Hannah Yeoh, who officiated the event said “As we look forward to a progressive Malaysia, the Sensory Photography programme is a positive first step in empowering the visually impaired with what is considered a foreign concept to them — the art of storytelling through photography. The programme is proof of the power of perseverance and determination in overcoming our own personal disorder”.
The Sensory Photography — for our new Malaysia exhibition will run from the 8th to the 27th of September at RUANG by Think City. Admission is free.