Thursday, 10 April 2014

We need your creative and organisational help to put on Clive's exhibition

After a six-week course of daily radiotherapy, Clive is back at home. There is a succession of what Wendy refers to as “smiley ladies”, nurses and carers that come to visit, and a neighbour bearing cake but, after all that radiotherapy, Clive is tired and sleeps frequently.

The quintessential photographer, Clive insisted on taking 
his camera equipment to his consultations to document 
his treatment. (Photo: Wendy Wall)

The printing process has begun in Spain and we’re turning towards the next part of the project for which we’re calling for your creative and organisational help to put on his exhibition of photography in Sheffield that will be accessible to the visually impaired. As you’ll already know, the first target, to fundraise 3075 € for a tactile print of one of Clive’s own photos was raised in five days and the money continues to come in. We’re up to over 4400 €. In true Blue Peter fashion, we’ve increased the target on the totaliser to 5000€.

From the inception of this idea, Clive has always wanted it to benefit a wider audience. When it was evident that we would raise more money than was needed for Spanish printing, Clive and Wendy discussed what to do next and Clive was clear that he wanted an exhibition. We’ve since discussed this but now we really need to start turning the idea into a reality. 

Clearly, we can’t fill a gallery with images printed in Spain at 3000€ a pop but we have a cunning plan! Sue King, Tactile Images and Maps Consultant at the RNIB, is very willing to help us. She could provide images that might not be as aesthetically pleasing to the sighted as Juan’s images but would be accessible to visually impaired people (I’ll explain in a mo). 

There will be three strands to this exhibition. Central will be Clive’s friends and colleagues (and their combined body of work) at Archive-Sheffield. Secondly, Clive would like his students and his teaching colleagues at Leeds Met Uni involved. Thirdly, Clive has already worked with several groups of visually impaired people and it seems only logical to have these people, who have been at the end of Clive’s lens being able to appreciate photos of themselves through touch and commentary.

Wendy’s idea is to have a standard photo print exhibited alongside a tactile image, with accompanying commentary in both braille and conventional text, maybe audio as well. We think that the centre-piece of the exhibition could be a triptych of the picture of Dave Howe: with the Spanish print, an RNIB tactile print of the same image, a standard photo print and, at least for the opening, Dave in gloves and shorts in person. 

Before I watched the BBC video on Juan Torre, I knew nothing about tactile images and how the visually impaired might see by feeling. I found it inspirational and a great idea. (Watch the 4 ½ minute video—if you haven’t already done so). However, as I learn more about tactile images, I can see that Juan is someone with a rich understanding of photography, who has subsequently lost most of his sight. Trevor (Clive’s dad) has spoken to Julie Smethurst at the Sheffield Royal Society for the Blind who told him that, as she has been blind from birth, a photograph would have no meaning for her, although she was very willing to help.

It’s clearly not as simple as applying a relief to a regular photo. You need to watch the excellent video of Sue King (see previous post, below) explaining the how the RNIB’s tactile images work and how visually impaired people relate to them. You’ll hear her talk about how a sighted person can instantly appreciate perspective, and how a face, turned half away, is still a face, whereas a blind person would find it strange that one eye was smaller than the other and the mouth not symmetrical. As we choose (or take) images to use, we’ll need to be advised by Sue on what is most suitable for this sort of representation and maybe prioritise clarity and symmetry over funky photo angles.

In my next post, I’ll show you the “to do” list so, if you think you will be able to help, please post a comment or email me (stuart [at] replacing the ‘at’ with @.

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