How Tammy Ruggles Overcomes Limited Vision through Photography

All images by Tammy Ruggles. Used with permission.

My name is Tammy Ruggles and I’m a legally blind photographer. To practice photography, I use a point-and-shoot camera set on auto, a 47-inch monitor, my former art education, and my remaining vision. I’m more of a fine art photographer than a commercial photographer. I’ve been an artist since the age of 12, mainly sketching. I studied art in high school and college, so art heavily influences my taste and style when it comes to photography.

As for my equipment, I use a Sony Rx100 set on auto, and prefer my photos be black and white, since I have a visual impairment known as Retinitis pigmentosa (RP), where high contrast is seen more easily by my eyes.

For many years growing up, my bad vision got in the way of me being the kind of photographer I wanted to be — the traditional kind where you develop photos in a darkroom. It wasn’t until 2013 that I bought my first point-and-shoot digital camera, which basically does all the work for me. All I have to do is transfer my photos and choose the ones that are artistically satisfying to me.

Readers may be curious about the photography made by a legally blind person, why someone like me would want to be involved in an art that is so visually-oriented. You may wonder what my pictures look like, or what art means to a visually impaired person.


Why did you get into photography?

It was something I’d always wanted to do, from a very young age. It satisfies my artistic nature and helps me express my creativity.

What photographers are your biggest influences?

Ansel Adams and Alfred Stieglitz.

How long have you been shooting?

Since 2013.


Why is photography and shooting so important to you?

I can express my creativity, and my camera shows me see what my eyes miss. I can view the world I capture as enlarged images on a giant computer monitor.

Do you feel that you’re more of a creator or a documenter? Why?

I feel I’m more of a creator, because I like the idealized versions of images. The more “artistic” an image is, the better I like it. Documentary photography can move the viewer too, of course, but I’ve always been an artist at heart, with sketching and finger painting, so I’m naturally inclined to like the creative side of things.

What’s typically going through your mind when you create images? Tell us about your processes both mentally and mechanically?

I’m thinking, this looks artistic to me, I hope it does to the viewer as well. There is balance, contrast, interesting composition (hopefully!).

Want to walk us through your processing techniques?

It’s a very simple one for me. I snap my pictures, take them home to my computer, transfer them to my large monitor where I choose the ones that I like best, or think the viewer might like best, and delete the rest. Most are not pleasing to me. Sometimes I enhance contrast, saturate, or crop in a photo editing program, and that’s about it.

Tell us about the project that you’re pitching, or your portfolio.

I’m working on a photo book of pictures I’ve taken this year, 2017. In early January next year, it will be available on Amazon as a Kindle book.

What made you want to get into your genre?

For me I think it’s trying to capture the rural images I grew up with in Kentucky. I love the landscapes of Ansel Adams, and the painterly quality of Alfred Stieglitz, so I’m trying to convey art with my pictures.

Tell us a bit about the gear that you use and how you feel it helps you achieve your creative vision.

Since I can’t read settings on a camera or work in a darkroom, and want to always have a camera at the ready, I opted for a Sony RX100, which is small enough to hold and operate with one hand. I just spray and pray, since I can’t really see the subjects that are out there, hoping my camera has picked up something interesting.

The only gear I have really is my camera. I could add my PC, oversized monitor, and photo editing program, but really it’s my camera that does all the work.

What motivates you to shoot?

Wondering what my camera will capture next, and having yet another opportunity to express my creativity.


See more of Tammy Ruggles’ work on her DeviantArt portfolio.