by Tammy Ruggles
When people hear that I’m a legally blind photographer, I’m often asked, “How do you do it if you can’t see?” Well, the thing is, I’m not completely blind, I do have some vision, and I use this residual vision to practice photography, along with my point-and-shoot digital camera set on auto, and a 47-inch computer monitor.
I have retinitis pigmentosa (RP), so in my case, I see best in high contrast black and white. I love color, but black and white is more appealing to me because I can see it better. I also see simple compositions better than I do complicated ones. This is usually the kind of photo I choose for my portfolio. If I can make out what’s in the photo, it stays. If I can’t tell what it is, I toss it. My early art education, experience as a former sketcher, and individual taste also play a part in which images I keep, and which I delete.
Fine art photography didn’t start for me until 2013, because I thought for many years I couldn’t do it ‘properly’ or ‘perfectly’. I could never see in a darkroom because of night blindness, and I couldn’t read the settings on a camera. So I resigned myself to taking family snapshots.
2013 brought the idea of a point-and-shoot digital camera with auto settings, where images are developed in-camera. I literally point and shoot, and, since my surroundings are very blurry (especially things far away), don’t always know what I’ve captured until I get my camera home and transfer the images onto my big monitor.
Being a professional photographer is a dream come true. It’s took the right technology, and a little courage on my part. I realized that photos don’t have to be perfect in order to be interesting or pretty. In a way, whatever imperfections are there is part of my style.
My camera sees for me, in a way, and helps me to see things that my eyes miss normally, like flowers, cherries, birds, cloud formations, my family’s faces–just about everything. A cherry blossom becomes two feet tall on my large screen.
Photography is a way to express myself creatively, but it’s also a way to stay connected to the visual world that is slipping away from me little by little.