‘Seeing in Isolation’ is an exciting new project by community arts organisation Multistory and photographer Karren Visser that shares digital stories made with, and told by, visually impaired Sandwell residents. The project brings together members of Sandwell Visually Impaired (SVI) to share their stories through short digital films made up of audio recordings, photographs from family albums, music and animation. It aims to challenge people’s understanding of sight loss and show that blind and visually impaired people want to be part of the visual world.
Despite this project being created during the Coronavirus pandemic, with many participants shielding in their homes, surprisingly it is largely absent from the stories. Instead, there are memories and reflections, past and present, on relationships, hopes and dreams, the everyday and the challenges faced by visually impaired people. These stories have universal themes of resilience, including how Helen overcomes hurdles to realise her dream of opera singing. Craig’s journey to acceptance, after he goes blind in his twenties because of his diabetes, gives us a window into his world of hallucinations caused by Charles Bonnet Syndrome. Jean’s story of faith and love is beautiful in its timelessness; and Perm speaks for many young women, pushing boundaries to break free from family and community expectations.
As Karren was unable to photograph individuals and hear their stories in person, they were collected over Zoom, on the phone and via voice recordings. Participants worked with us to choose the experiences that they most wished to highlight, and they were involved in writing and recording the script. The process is as important as the final outcome, as each person has co-created, and audio-described, their digital story.
Karren Visser is a photographer. She has degenerative myopia and glaucoma and she experienced further sight loss during lockdown. The initial ‘quiet’ that came from there being fewer people out on the streets meant that she was more aware of how her other senses help her to see. This freedom was short-lived, however, and she began to hide her white cane and soon she retreated from the streets. Whilst working on ‘Seeing in Isolation’, for the first time, she also created self-portraits and audio recordings about her own experience that reflected this sense of increasing isolation.
The digital stories will be launched on Thursday 6 May 2021, 2pm to 3.15pm and Saturday 8 May 2021, 5pm to 6.15pm via Zoom and will subsequently be available on Multistory’s website. Sign up here.
Read more on how this project has been adapted for lockdown in a previous blog.
In the Press
Listen to Sandra Troth from Sandwell Visually Impaired talk to RNIB Radio Connect.