This is a question that I’m personally asked very often, so I’ll answer it here.
If you’ve read this site for years, you probably know about something that makes me special. I’m legally blind. You can see it in my images and even on my personal website. But the fact is that as a legally blind photographer, I still end up nailing focus and having better images than most folks. Millions of people come to this site to trust the reviews I write and the work that I oversee amongst the staff. So you’ve got to wonder then how a blind guy gets so far, right? I mean, this is a photography blog, after all. Well, I’m going to get personal and hope that it inspires someone out there.
First off, I wasn’t always legally blind. That happened more or less in my mid-twenties. It was partially based on stress-induced astigmatism headaches. Specifically, I have keratoconus. I developed those working at B&H Photo, and they didn’t leave me for years until I learned to meditate through pain and concentrate through them better. Then a bad prescription for my eyes made it worse. But it started years before that.
You see, I grew up in a pretty toxic household. My mom always used to tell me that I was too young to be losing my vision. But the fact stood that my scores in the class were bad. I’d squint to see the chalkboard. And that happened for more or less two years. Then one day, my Dad told my mother that his insurance was going to run out. They were divorced, and my sister and I lived with her. She decided to take us to the eye doctor. It took a doctor to convince my mother that I was going blind and needed glasses. She never believed me otherwise. So for around two years, I taught myself to go around the world nearly blind.
Fast forward to 2009, when I founded this website. Back then, autofocus was atrocious. So I’d end up manually focusing most of the time and getting my shots perfectly. Legal blindness didn’t kick in just yet. Eventually, autofocus got better, and I ended up using it. After legal blindness came about, I gave in to autofocus. And since then, it’s been a savior.
But at the same time, I’ve cared less and less about critical focus. I don’t think that critical focus can overwhelm the feeling of a moment. A moment and context could make an image so much better regardless of focus accuracy. Some of the most celebrated images in history have been all out of focus. But what mattered is the moment. So I’ve become more of a photographer that focuses on creating instead of capturing. It’s one of the reasons why I put out so many calls for photographers who are conceptual, surreal, and creators. Those who create have full control over everything around them. But many of my shots are the same type of snapshots that so many of you take while just experiencing and enjoying life.
And those moments are all that photography is about. These days, autofocus is so good that a blind person can take a photo. I’d know! I do it every month when I put a camera in my hand. And with manual focus, zone focusing can do it all. There are so many aides these days. A blind person shouldn’t be expected to get it critically sharp every time. But a normally sighted person surely can.