Seeing Without Seeing – The Fascinating Story Of The Blind Photographer

There is one thing we all share in common, regardless of what we shoot or what gear we use. When we raise the viewfinder to our eye, we take it for granted that we can actually see what we are photographing. Brenden Borrellini is completely blind, but that does not stop him making photographs and loving every moment of it. This is the fascinating story of the blind photographer.

Brenden was born deaf and with limited sight which later developed into complete blindness. His disabilities didn’t hinder him and he went on to achieve outstanding academic achievements, leading to him being awarded The Young Australian Of The Year in 1989.

Brenden eventually met Steve Mayer-Miller, Artistic Director for Crossroad Arts, a local organization based in Mackay, Australia that specializes in providing opportunities for people with disabilities to explore and participate in the arts.

As the video here shows, Brenden’s natural curiosity and inquisitiveness about exploring a space, and using a camera led Steve to develop and employ some innovative techniques to provide Brenden feedback on what he was capturing.

They utilize a direct text-to-braille convertor, which provides Brenden immediate feedback, on the technical details (exposure, depth, shutter) of the image, as well as objective and subjective feedback (what has been captured, and how it makes the viewer feel). They use a special printer that outputs a layered printed image to provide a direct tactile way for Brenden to “feel” the 3 dimensionality of the flat photograph.

One of Brenden's images

...being rendered as a textured print for tactile feedback

For most of us, being able to look back and see the photograph is a key component of why we enjoy photography in the first place, but for Brenden it’s more about exploring the process of making a photograph than the final image itself. Funnily enough, Henri Cartier-Bresson, one of photography’s well acknowledged Masters, shared a similar view and had this to say:

“I’m known as a photographer but what excites me is taking the photographic shot; the rest I couldn’t care less about. I was in the Orient for three years, and I didn’t once see a contact sheet. Every so often I’d have something published. I’d take a look. But I didn’t miss it for a second. I’ve had good friends who spend all their time poring over their contact sheets. Why not? Everybody’s different. Fortunately. It’s not the sort of thing that would interest me. What does interest me is being there, being present.”

Brenden’s story is a great reminder of a universal element of photography we can so often forget about when we’re working, or looking at the gear we think we should own. Simply being in the moment, and capturing what we feel is something we all share in common, regardless of whether we can even see what we are photographing, or not.

Via [Open ABC]

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Christian Berens's picture

wow that's trully amazing and inspirational! I have terrible vision (not nearly to that degree) but I've always wondered what would happen if i wasn't able to see and shoot. Kudos to them and their story!

Kristjan Järv's picture


Kristi Woody's picture

Fantastic story! Thanks so much for sharing this. The technology that converts the photos to a tactile print is just amazing. What a gift for Brenden to experience that!

David Geffin's picture

You're welcome Kristi - i also liked that aspect of the story. Kudos to the arts organization for looking into and sourcing that device, it must really help with the process.