Saturday, August 23, 2008

Deafness and Photography

Someone asked me recently whether I would be so keen on photography if I had perfect hearing. I found it rather hard to answer that question as I've been deaf all my life and have never had perfect hearing. We all do things in life, the things that shape us, through our own experiences, some that aren't of our choosing, and we all tend to bend towards those that we are good at or are easy for us. If we have some sort of ability for something in the first place, then we tend to hone in on that ability and perfect it.

I'd like to think that I would still be involved in photography if I wasn't deaf, but I can't help think that if I had hearing, my life woud be totally different to what it is now. If I were hearing I'd probably have a university degree, married with 8 kids, living overseas, and doing something musical.

All those things I'd have liked to do, but in some small way each one has been affected by my deafness. I didn't go to University because back then I wouldn't have heard the lecturers, and notetaking was considered a form of cheating.

I'm single because (amongst other things) the men I have met haven't been able to cope with deafness that well, and I tend to get the feeling that men would like their females to be perfect, even if they're not that perfect themselves. Thats fine by me, I'm happy with my own company and I would rather be single than be with the wrong person.

I'd have loved to live overseas, somewhere other than New Zealand, but the opportunity never really presented itself, and I wasn't confident enough because of my lack of hearing to uproot and try.

And lastly - I would have loved to be a music performer, as I played the piano well, but I realised from a very young age I would one day be totally deaf, so I didn't pursue it hard enough. Sure Beethoven was deaf, but remember he went deaf much later.

So I can say with certainty that deafness has shaped my life to what it is today, and part of that shape includes photography which I'm passionate about. In fact, I think deafness and photography go really well together and I'm surprised not more people in the deaf community aren't serious photographers.

Being Deaf/deaf/hard of hearing/hearing impaired (whatever you see yourself as), makes us very visually aware. We become in tune with our surroundings whether it is with a group of people we communicate with, with sign, or visual clues, body language and lirpeading, or whether we are in quiet surrounding with no one about. For the latter we then became aware, for example, not of the bird singing, but of it's movement and behaviour. We will often see what hearing people don't. A hearing person may hear the bird, but not look, just simply knowing that the bird is there. We will see the bird, and often watch it to see what it does.

I'm aware of two instances that are clear in my mind today, as if they happened yesterday, where I became convinced that people with good hearing, are simply oblivious of what is around them. The first was I was walking up our main street many years ago when it was busier than it is today. It was a summer evening and we had finished work and on the way to the pub for friday night drinks. I was with a group of my workmates, all with good hearing. In front of us, was a 'golden couple'. Impeccably dressed with expensive clothes (you could tell), the male and female had their arms around each others waists. She had a perfect figure, and was very tanned, and was wearing white shorts - very short shorts so you could see where the top of her legs ended and her backside started. We were all watching them as they walked in front of, each admiring the view that was personal to them, when the female reached around to her backside and scratched it. Yet I was the only one who saw it. I cracked up because the then 'perfect' scene was ruined. Not one of the others in my group had seen it, yet they were all 'looking'.

Perhaps I was the only one admiring that particular view which is a bit of a worry in hindsight!! But it was really mind boggling to me that no one else in my group saw it happen.

A few years later I was at the zoo in the New Zealand Rainforest Aviary. There was a rare NZ parakeet were feeding up in the tree right above the pathway, yet I was the ONLY one who saw it. The other people within the aviary were completely blind to the fact that they walked under a branch with one of these gorgeous birds right above them, yet they never saw it. As an experiment, I called one back showed them, and asked if they had seen it before then - but no - they hadn't and were grateful I had showed them.

So my photography is like that - I capture things that people aren't aware of, or they are aware of, but try and present it in a different way, or angle. Or maybe I take something that people see every day, and they take for granted, and I present it so they are able to see that something in a different light.

When out with my camera, I don't have to talk to anyone, or converse with anyone which is great - it's me and my camera, although more often than not, strangers will talk to me about my camera gear and email addresses might be exchanged. I will often be given a camera by complete strangers to take photos of them in the current surroundings, these people are nine times out of 10 Japanese and no words need to be exchanged to what they want.

Photography doesn't come easy to me. I look back at the images I took ten years ago and cringe, but then remember that through trial and error and looking at work online, I have improved slowly and surely.

I will never take the world by storm. I doubt that anyone will remember my work in my lifetime or after, but it gives me a great sense of pride and achievement when I get something right and makes others look at an image and go 'wow'. More often than not, I'm surprised to get that kind of reaction but I have realised over time that art and images are very personal, and what one person dislikes intensely, another will love it. I now find the reasons why one loves or hates an image, more interesting than the image itself, and enjoy reading the reactions of people on my two art sites - deviantart and redbubble.

If you would like to see my images, then you can go to my photography blog. I upload one image per day so it's ever changing.

Cheers
Robyn

19 comments:

Deb Ann said...

Hi there!
I want to let you know how much I enjoyed reading your post. :)

Robyn said...

Hi Deb Ann,

Thank you for letting me know. Glad you enjoyed it :)

Cheers
Robyn

icemother said...

I find that a really odd question..how on earth would you know?

Also, how many photographers are on here for example? .. and what percentage would be deaf? I don't think it would be high number.. I can't see a correlation between being deaf and being a photographer. Deafness may make you more visually acute but it doesn't give you greater creativity or skill. It's a bit like Ray Charles ... would he know if he would have been more or less musical if he hadn't lost his sight? How would he know?.. he could have formed a musical interest if he was sighted and still been a gifted musician.. his life's path would have been different of course.

Also, there are clinical tests for all people to discern whether they respond best to tactile, auditory or visual learning stimulus. You can have perfect sight and/or hearing and still be more attuned to visual stimuli and learning and so on. Teachers should vary their presentation methods to employ a full range of learning experiences. I prefer visual stimuli myself but when tested I come out even for visual/hearing/tactile..(which is unusual).

.. now if taste was involved and I had to eat my words.. I'd probably be a genius!!! :p

.. with your stories.. I'm sorry to be a spoil sport again.. but one of my daughters (not IQ) has a knack for always spotting wild life or things that no one else sees.. she just.. sees things! Some people are just more perceptive .. in fact in "spy" school they chose these people or train others to be more perceptive.. it is a skill that you can learn.. some people just have it more naturally.. sometimes someone is just more alert than the group at a particular time for whatever reason.. it is true of course, that when one sense is impaired or missing people and animals compensate with another sense being more highly developed than usual.

..so the long and short of my response is that I think you are a gifted photographer with very highly developed visual skills .. and creativity. I think your sight has been heightened as a compensatory measure for your lack of hearing and that you are probably more visually alert.. but then so are some sighted people as well. However, I think it is quite possible that if you were not deaf and had taken up photography your talent would be equal to what it is now.. but then all things cannot be considered equal. If you watch "Run Lola Run".. life has many alternate paths.

.. now as for "I look back at the images I took ten years ago and cringe, but then remember that through trial and error and looking at work online, I have improved slowly and surely." If a photographer cannot look at their work from ten years ago and see an improvement (especially in technique) then they are definitely not a great photographer.

.. and .. "I will never take the world by storm. I doubt that anyone will remember my work in my lifetime or after.." I will remember your work! Plus, there are many great artists who don't achieve fame, but that does not mean they are not great artists. It just means they are not celebrated. There are also many crappy artists who do attract a great following but that does not make them masters.

I think this belongs in a note.. I don't know why I have chosen to be so wordy about this. I believe that past a certain length replies should be "noted"!

Have a good weekend. :) Liz

I obviously liked reading your journal and I am just returning my thought which is one aim of journals, i.e. to be thought provoking. :D

Anonymous said...

I find that a really odd question..how on earth would you know?

Also, how many photographers are on here for example? .. and what percentage would be deaf? I don't think it would be high number.. I can't see a correlation between being deaf and being a photographer. Deafness may make you more visually acute but it doesn't give you greater creativity or skill. It's a bit like Ray Charles ... would he know if he would have been more or less musical if he hadn't lost his sight? How would he know?.. he could have formed a musical interest if he was sighted and still been a gifted musician.. his life's path would have been different of course.

Also, there are clinical tests for all people to discern whether they respond best to tactile, auditory or visual learning stimulus. You can have perfect sight and/or hearing and still be more attuned to visual stimuli and learning and so on. Teachers should vary their presentation methods to employ a full range of learning experiences. I prefer visual stimuli myself but when tested I come out even for visual/hearing/tactile..(which is unusual).

.. now if taste was involved and I had to eat my words.. I'd probably be a genius!!! ;)

.. with your stories.. I'm sorry to be a spoil sport again.. but one of my daughters (not IQ) has a knack for always spotting wild life or things that no one else sees.. she just.. sees things! Some people are just more perceptive .. in fact in "spy" school they chose these people or train others to be more perceptive.. it is a skill that you can learn.. some people just have it more naturally.. sometimes someone is just more alert than the group at a particular time for whatever reason.. it is true of course, that when one sense is impaired or missing people and animals compensate with another sense being more highly developed than usual.

..so the long and short of my response is that I think you are a gifted photographer with very highly developed visual skills .. and creativity. I think your sight has been heightened as a compensatory measure for your lack of hearing and that you are probably more visually alert.. but then so are some sighted people as well. However, I think it is quite possible that if you were not deaf and had taken up photography your talent would be equal to what it is now.. but then all things cannot be considered equal. If you watch "Run Lola Run".. life has many alternate paths.

.. now as for "I look back at the images I took ten years ago and cringe, but then remember that through trial and error and looking at work online, I have improved slowly and surely." If a photographer cannot look at their work from ten years ago and see an improvement (especially in technique) then they are definitely not a great photographer.

.. and .. "I will never take the world by storm. I doubt that anyone will remember my work in my lifetime or after.." I will remember your work! Plus, there are many great artists who don't achieve fame, but that does not mean they are not great artists. It just means they are not celebrated. There are also many crappy artists who do attract a great following but that does not make them masters.

I think this belongs in a note.. I don't know why I have chosen to be so wordy about this. I believe that past a certain length replies should be "noted"!

Have a good weekend. :) Liz

I obviously liked reading your journal and I am just expressing my thoughts here which is one aim of journals, i.e. to be thought provoking! :D

PS: I think I just put this in the wrong blog but you can publish in the right one here :crazyliz:

Anonymous said...

Huge typo alert!!! Deafess???

Robyn said...

Hi Thanks for pointing out my typo LOL Cracking up. It's like Countess, and Mistress. Well - probably not.

Will fix it now LOL

Cheers
Robyn
Cracking up

Valerie said...

I've been reading your blog for a while and lurking until now. I'm deaf myself too and very attracted to the visual arts and dabble with it through making quilts. Your photography is wonderful. However, the link to your photography blog itself didn't work for me.

HENRY KISOR said...

I'm deafer than Robyn, and I'm a photographer who's nowhere near as good as she is. I think she has a point in suggesting that deaf people hone whatever visual skills and talents they have in order to compensate.

I'm astounded to learn that note-taking was considered underhanded in NZ academic circles!

HENRY KISOR said...

P.S. "robyncaterphotos" doesn't work, you old deafess, you.

Robyn said...

hi Valerie - the link now works - sorry about that :)

Robyn said...

Hi Henry,

Note taking was considered underhand back in the 1980's when I was wanting to go to University. However it's widely accepted now. I had terrible troule at school with it as well - no one would lend me notes as they thought I was cheating - so feel I would have done better if I could have laid my hands on more information. Instead I had to spend a lot of time at the library.

As for your photoraphy - you are way better than you think:)

Cheers
Robyn

Robyn said...

LOL - The photo-raphy link now works

Cheers
Old Deafess

(at least I didn't type Deafass!!)

Valerie said...

Robyn, yes, now the photography link works. Love the one of the Golden Gate Bridge (I'm a California native, but live in Colorado now).

Henry, I was so surprised to see you as a commenter here. I have your book "What's That Pig Outdoors?" !!

Fookem said...

I really admire your photography work.

:)


-Fookem

Fookem said...

I recently read your post. I guess I am like you when you took the images ten years ago. Hee Hee...

I have Nikon D80 and I am still learning how to process in the right way.

Again your photo works are very IMPRESSED! (I like the way how you shoot)

Would like to hear your little tips or your advice if you don't mind to share yours?

Thanks,
Dino aka Fookem

Robyn said...

Hi Dino, Aka Fookem,

I'm quite happy sharing my photography tips with you, but please let me know what tips you want to know. The best way is to head to my photography blog at www.robyncarterphotos.blogspot.com and take a look at what you like, and if you have any questions about an image leave a comment and I can reply.

alternativly, if it's a 'lesson' rather than a tip, I'll do a few in this blog :)

Cheers
Robyn

Abbie said...

Ya know what I agree with you. I tend to be more aware of my surroundings then say oh, a cop can be :)

I love this part

I'm single because (amongst other things) the men I have met haven't been able to cope with deafness that well, and I tend to get the feeling that men would like their females to be perfect, even if they're not that perfect themselves. Thats fine by me, I'm happy with my own company and I would rather be single than be with the wrong person.

This fits the bill perfectly for me too.

Kim said...

Not sure I ever mentioned that my mother ran an art gallery and painted professionally when I was a kid. I showed her your work and she was impressed.

Anyway, it's funny because we've had somewhat similar backgrounds. I probably wasn't as good at the piano as you, but it was my life for many years. I too began losing my hearing young and realized the music would be temporary. For a few years I threw myself into the piano while I could just to savor it. All of us with progressive hearing losses know we can wake up one morning to be totally deaf. It happens.

Better not to put all your eggs in one basket.

As a child I felt intimidated by my mom's talent so never pursued the visial arts, but as I get older I find myself drawn to it. You've inspired me to take up photography, dear. :-)

Hugs.

Dave said...

I so agree with your post and many if not most of the comments.
I became more aware and more visual when I became deaf one year ago. After 48 years of hearing, I am more aware of my surroundings, more appreciative of my world, take in and comprehend more than ever. This was in my silence.