Which sense do you rely on most? As a photographer I can only answer this question in one way - without the sense of vision I would not be able to do my job and not be able to do what I love. I would also think that my general activity levels would be much lower - goodbye my regular cycle rides to Richmond park, goodbye swims in the local pool, farewell kite surfing. Losing my eyesight would probably ruin me in the current sense of me.
It did not ruin Tiri Hughes whom I photographed for Blind Children UK a few weeks ago. Tiri is one of the most inspirational people I have ever met. She was diagnosed with a number of genetic ocular conditions in early childhood and would describe herself as being able to see about 5% of what normal vision would provide you with. She uses a cane and is applying to get a guide dog when she is old enough. And she just happens to be an internationally acclaimed, medal-winning athlete. She has represented the UK at disability swimming and gymnastic championships across the world and can bend in ways I never could.
This clash between apparent physical limitation and the freedom I associate with exercise provided my head with so much inspiration it was hard to choose just one setting for our shoot. We started off taking photos of Tiri in the gym - classic portraits perfect for my brief from the charity - to produce a library of publicity photographs they can use when promoting their work with visually impaired children. Gym ticked off, I had this mad idea of taking Tiri somewhere everyday and normal and asking her to do something completely abnormal. Having called all the supermarkets in Devon (or so it felt) I finally managed to convince ASDA in Torquay to block off their freezer aisle for our photoshoot for a few minutes. Tiri tried out a few different gymnastics moves and we ended up with a great shot of her doing a handstand. She was so at ease throwing the poses against the freezes I was just amazed.
For anyone who can barely cartwheel on the carpet at home without severe head injuries (i.e. most of us) Tiri can certainly be an inspiration. Thank you Blind Children UK and Tiri Hughes for the awesome opportunity. Also thanks to the manager of ASDA in Torquay for letting us use his space in rush hour.
You can find out more about Blind Children UK’s work on their website: http://www.blindchildrenuk.org/