Sunday, June 03, 2007

"My photos intend to graphically represent my inner visual world as a blind person.

"I use film as a canvas to depict what my remaining senses bring to my mind’s eye. I incorporate phantom imaging from the effects of my eye disease and my past memory. Graphic representations of the enhanced senses felt by the blind find a place in my work. The results often have a mixture of the real and surreal. I became legally blind about twenty years ago. I have been categorized as totally blind by doctors for about four or five years. I find the challenge of photography an enjoyable test of my creativity.

"I still view the world visually. But now I have to use my remaining senses and memory to formulate an inner vision in my mind’s eye. Losing my eyesight has not diminished the clarity of my internal vision. I have worked hard to sharpen my other senses and learn what objects sound like. These efforts have sharpened my internal vision. This process is similar to a baby learning to see. A baby has to learn to comprehend vision. I am learning to comprehend sound. I actively research sounds and how sound interacts with objects to be able to make better photos. Sound, touch, and memory are events in the photographic process that result in a visual product. I enjoy the event. The graphic product I view as conceptual art that I can't see. " ~ Pete Eckert (the artist's statement copied from the Exploding Head Gallery
I watched this guy being interviewed on TV and I was hooked with the images being shown. He used a Yashica-Mat TLR camera or something similar as I was only able to see the camera but not the brand. Being a blind artist is one thing but to not let it affect what it is he wants to get out of life is really something else!
Eckert was 28 when he was deemed legally blind; he spent the next decade earning several degrees, including one each in sculpture and ceramics at the Art Institute of Boston, and one in design and industry from San Francisco State. He also became a black belt in Tae Kwon Do. When the 48 year old former carpenter went blind from Retinitis Pigmentosa six years ago, he did the first thing he wasn't supposed to be able to do. He became a photographer. Eckert says, he paints with light and navigates through touch while listening to sounds. "Imagination fills in the details," he says.
I didn't believe it at first, he didn't look anything like your typical blind guy that wore dark glasses or whose eyes were expressionless instead he wore clear lens glasses avoid having his eyes scratched (from flying debris probably while he's working on his sculptures) and his eyes, even though he couldn't see anything, were full of life. But that's not the weird thing. As he told the San Francisco Chronicle (Feb. 27, 2005 issue), things started to a turn towards the interesting and unusual when he became blind, "I can see lots of ... really weird things," Eckert says, slowly lifting his left hand toward his face and gazing directly at it. "I feel light so strongly that it allows me to see the bones in my skeleton as pulsating energy, or like in an X-ray. At times I can sort of see sound. Sometimes I can even see things from the back of my head." Hmmm... Slap on red tights and call him DD! Just kidding. I'm just a bit surprised and awed at the same time about this kind of gift that happens in real life. Anyway I figured visual artworks are better off shown than described so I tried looking for the exact photographs shown during his interview but I've only managed to come up with these:

Hunter and V-Head

Idol and Rocking Chair

Coffee and Saloon

He accomplishes his portraitures by getting a feel of the edge of the subject before standing back and tracing the person with beams of light from a pen lighter like a painter uses his brush before he takes a shot. All the others are stumbled on during his walks (I have this theory that windows of photo opportunities open for an average of a fraction of a second and you have to be ready with your camera to capture the exact lighting and setting that fascinated you). I haven't seen any samples of his sculpture or ceramics which is just as well since I think his photographs catapulted him to fame more than his other works.

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