A photograph is created in the eyes of the beholder who interprets it through personal experience.
Tactile photograph by Göran Rydberg, deaf-blind photographer. Photo: Truls Nord.
Every photograph is an open story until described. Interpreting a photograph through another person’s description of it limits the possibility to discover it based on your own personal experience. For the visually impaired it has not been possible to interpret a photograph on their own terms – until now…
Within the project Taktil foto* (Tactile photo) we have developed a new printing technique that makes it possible to have both a visual and a tactile photograph in the same print.
Rolf Eriksson, deaf-blind photographer, examine one of his tactile photographs at ‘Våga se!’ at Stockholm City Museum. Photo: Truls Nord.
With lines, contours and layers we make the content of a photograph tactile. In addition, we even make the light of the photograph tactile! This separates our printing technique from all other known techniques used for tactile images; the light in a photograph creates its atmosphere and with our technique it is possible for the visually impaired to emotionally experience a photograph, as opposed to feel its content only.
Deaf-blind Graciela Gonzalo-Sundström examines a tactile photograph by Rolf Eriksson. Photo: Truls Nord.
The way we humans interpret, interact and respond to a setting depends to a large extent on an initial overview. If we are presented with the general content and the scale of a room, an exhibition space, a scenery or a landscape, we are more likely to find a desire to explore, move around and interact with its different components in our own order and our own pace.
For the visually impaired, a general overview like this is often non-existent or totally dependent on the assistance or interpretation of an attendant.
Tactile photo by deaf-blind photographer Graciela Gonzalo-Sundström.
A direct understanding of a room, as we enter it, generates affiliation to the space and a possibility to explore in our own order and pace.
A tactile photograph that reflects the view from where we stand can convey an instant overview, and hence be a decisive invitation to explore the space/room.
Tactile photograph by Graciela Gonzalo-Sundström, as exhibited with image description and reference letters/numbers. Photo: Truls Nord.
Depending on the context a tactile photograph can also be accompanied by descriptive text and/or coordinates that guides the viewer to specific content within the photograph.
In a theatre that provides audio description for a play, a tactile photograph of the stage will enable the visually impaired audience to experience the play on more equal terms with the audience who can see.
Tactile print of a photograph by Urban Jörén of the scenery for the play ‘Jag är Sara’ (‘I am Sara’) by Sara Remgren at Tyst teater. Photo: Truls Nord.
* Taktil foto was initiatiated and lead by Truls Nord for FSDB Stockholm & Gotlands län, in co-operation with Projektor Utbildning, Layout & Dekor and Centrum för fotografi.
The project was founded by Arvsfonden and Innovativ kultur.