Capturing talents of the visually-impaired

Hannah Yeoh (left) checks out the artworks by Jamaliah (right) at the exhibition. — Pictures by Hari Anggara
Hannah Yeoh (left) checks out the artworks by Jamaliah (right) at the exhibition. — Pictures by Hari Anggara

KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 15 ― When taking photographs, the most important of our five senses are our eyes.

In fact, many may not be able to fathom the idea of a person without vision handling a camera.

However, the human spirit and will power can propel us to do amazing things, including take snapshots without the help of sight. 

It is with this belief that social enterprise Community Partnership, Malaysian Association for the Blind and Studio DL Sdn Bhd collaborated to hold a 10-week sensory photography programme to teach the visually-impaired community the art of photography.

With varying degrees of visual impairment, the students — Ahar Tabe, Ng Suzie, Jamaliah Mohd Yasin, Rashidi Abdullah, Svivabalan Selvarajan, Vivian Kwek Chu Lan and Theng Sze Young — had to rely on their other senses, such as touch and hearing, to capture the photos.

Their efforts culminated in a photography exhibition titled Sensory photography — for our new Malaysia, featuring 70 works.

The event is also in conjunction with tomorrow’s Malaysia Day.

Commercial photographer David Lok, who led the pilot programme as head tutor, has devised a handbook on teaching the visually-impaired the art of photography.

It is to empower this community with a skill that is considered foreign to them while providing them a channel for self-expression, aside from providing them a potential source of income.

Lok said: “Photography by the blind is relatively new in Malaysia and we are hoping this pilot project will take off and be subsequently streamlined.

‘Shadow Hunter’ by Vivian Kwek Chu Lan.
‘Shadow Hunter’ by Vivian Kwek Chu Lan.

“These students have their own vision and story that they want to communicate to the world.”

The exhibition also features 28 tactile photographs accompanied by audio descriptors, enabling the visually-impaired to get acquainted with stories of the art through the combined experience of physical touch and audio.

Plus Community Partnership co-founder Monica Chen said the programme prompted a sense of inclusiveness and equality.

“The sensory programme was a two-way street where both sides of the spectrum learnt and understood more of each other’s world.

“We certainly believe the visually-impaired have the potential to do more and offer great artistic perspectives in a world that’s more inclined to the sighted.”

The exhibition was recently launched by Hannah Yeoh, Deputy Women, Family and Community Development Minister, at Ruang in Think City Kuala Lumpur.

In her speech, Yeoh praised the artworks and said a person with sight may not necessarily have vision while a person without sight may not necessarily be without vision.

“Photography is all about capturing the best perspective and their (the visually-impaired’s) perspective and ours can differ.

“It is interesting for us to understand their perspective of the new Malaysia.”

Yeoh said this programme is believed to have the capacity to assist the visually-disabled to expand their potential into an industry that has been in the past limited for persons with vision.

“This is the type of new Malaysia we want to see.

‘Alone’ by Theng Sze Young.
‘Alone’ by Theng Sze Young.

“Not just a change of government but the birth of new ideas and projects that will enable every Malaysian to fulfil their potential.

Based on the latest report from her ministry, Yeoh said the total number of persons with disabilities registered with the ministry as of June 30 is 474,579, out of which about 10 per cent are visually-impaired, making it the third highest disability in the country.

She added there are still many persons with disabilities who have yet to register with the ministry.

“We encourage those with any kind of disability to register with the ministry as there are many privileges and facilities provided by the government and private sector for this community.”

The exhibition will run until September 27 (except September 15 and 19). Admission is free.

Visit Sensory Photography Exhibition on Facebook for details.

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