Today I'm bringing to you two other voices from our group, Victorine Floyd Fludd and Sonia Soberats. I interviewed both several years ago, both Vicki and Sonia bring to the visual world, their work, filtered and crystallized through their blindness...
Victorine Floyd Fludd
What are some of the more interesting pictures you've done? Some of the later ones, like “Radiant Abyss”, “Fire Woman” and “Moonlight” and “Children of the Damned.” I think those are very good and, some of the others that we haven't printed yet. Especially “Fire Woman”, because it's a fascinating thing, to see you sitting there and burning. When someone asked me if it was a dream or nightmare I had, I said, no it's real - this is when I was a kid. I love that picture and I can't see it, I just picture the way it is in my mind. I just visualize it. I think I love that more than any other. Is that because other people love it so much? Nooo. And the other one with me in the African skirt, like I'm dancing, I love that too. And the one I was doing like Lucille Ball...with me and my walking stick...It's the fun part of the movement and dancing and excitement. Sometimes, a person is acting with this walking stick and your going across and the way you swing yourself like you’re walking across a stage...When Christina was here, that day we made that “Moonlight”, we made that with me and Christina standing up on the table, looking up at the stars, Mark was making the Moon and stars and I remember “Fire-Woman” came after that. Both of those involve memory. I remember when I was a little girl, this other young lady, she was older than I was, she was working with my cousin in an estate, she was sitting in front of the door and all of a sudden, she started to light afire ... it was scary, weird to see that happen, but to see it in the picture it's not real in the picture. So it kind of fascinated me in the picture that I did, but with that, that was very serious. I started picturing...burning? - You know when fire burns you, how you feel? Oh my God, I wonder how she go through it and then after, every time we go, they say, she is on fire, we try to see what's going on ... next thing, they said she burn up - we went to the funeral...The idea is about spontaneous combustion, bursting into flames from nothing? From nothing! Nobody lit a match or nothing! All of a sudden, like that! And it was so scary, because everybody is standing up watching, nobody can help...They put the fire out for a time, but after, she burned to death. And the house did not burn...To know somebody is burning, even if you touch a fire, you light a piece of paper and that flame coming up on your hand, man, you let that paper go so fast, any way, and this, you can't do nothing. As a child I couldn't help but do nothing...How did you think of how to recreate it in your picture? I sat by the door there, and had Mark light the fire all around me. Mark used the material, the silver, the way it floats, like it floats up and down with a sparkle, like you are blazing, remember, we just used the foil to do sparks, and the material is silver so it makes the fire better because it's like wavy, up and down. And now, with my picture, it fascinates me so much, I wish I could just see it with the flames coming up around me...because I feel that’s one of the best pictures I made...from my feeling and my heart that's the best picture.
|Fire- woman by Victorine Floyd Fludd with SWPC|
I can talk about “Moonlight” too, because that’s when we were growing up as kids and before they had electric lights ( Victorine grew up in Antigua ) ...in the countryside there is no electric light, no current, its lamp and things like that. So in the night, it will be pitch dark, you can see somebody coming towards you, but you don't know who it is unless they say something...just a black form coming towards you. But in Moonlight, oh boy! when that Moon comes up, Steve - it's so pretty, you see shine down, when you drop a pin or a dime it shines so bright you can pick it up, you drop it and are looking for it and see it shining...when you see a piece of glass bottle, when you see it shine, you think its... something! You go to reach for it, every thing looks glowing bright and shiny! I have a picture of an arch; with my hands I am going through. I put my hand up and make an arch and then the other side and make another arch so there are two of me...I used to like to take pictures of my kids and parents...My daughter would put on my dress and a big hat on her head those are the things I liked when I saw that I'd run and get my camera. I don't know, somebody gone with my album. I tell you that hurt me, those are pictures I used to have, they take them, who knows?...Pictures of Carnival and Weddings...somebody gone with my album when I was moving, I was looking for it...it's gone and it hurts. They take it because I can't see, I had it in my room, but they take it out...I didn't expect to loose my vision, you’re not looking to loose your vision. I didn't have time to do nothing. Within the space of a month, I went blind.
Can you talk about “Radiant Abyss”? One day I was coming in on the train and all of a sudden it just came to me - I said “Mark, set me up! I want to do a picture of Ben, this is the way I want to do it.” I was so shocked when everybody said it came out so good, because it's just wrapping him from head to toe in paper- towel, I didn’t let him take off his glasses and had him fold his arms and wrapped down to his waist. After I finished, Mark framed him for me and I light him up...I didn't expect it to be such a hit! If someone had this question in their mind, I wonder if she really did this picture or someone else helped her a lot and they mostly did the picture, what would you say? I'd say come in and watch, and you'll see and take it from there. A lot of people feel because you can't see , you can't do nothing or certain things. But a blind person can do things just like a sighted person...you can't focus the camera, you can try - but it might come out the way a blind person would focus it...but, we do that when we go out and take pictures - nobody focuses for us, so we can. Say we have a place that's going to show our pictures, and I don't have any pictures there, it's fine for me, as long as I know others are represented in the group, our work is out there...You’re not going to expect somebody to love your picture all the time, so you have to prepare yourself for the downfall as well as the upstage.
|Vicki Whirls by Victorine Floyd Fludd with SWPC|
Is there a difference working with blind people and sighted people? The blind person, you have to hold their hand and guide them, tell them what to do, to get the result you want. They have to see by touching...because I cannot see I want them to be able to do just like I do, but, a sighted person can watch what you are doing. Teaching a blind person, it comes to me just like myself...they're feeling just like me, I relate to them more than the sighted. The kids in Holland were amazed at the things we could do, they were accepting, I met a young lady and she said like this: “My Mother said – ‘What are you doing with a camera, you can't see ‘ ", I said, “Let me tell you something, you show your Mother! Because you cannot see, you can still do it and maybe better than if you could see, you go for it and don't let anyone put you down.” We’re showing them something that no blind people ever have done.
What would you like to share with people about working here? Taking pictures, it's got to be in you, it's got to be something you want to do, you've got to have that love for it, because if you don't, you're not going to bring out nothing worthwhile. You have to be able to bring out that love you have within you for it. ♦
Sonia has just returned from a S.W.P. Exhibition and workshop held in Caracas Venezuela, at the Central University. She is recalling sighted participants reactions learning light painting while blindfolded, a teaching technique we use. People who saw our pictures couldn't believe it. Three photographers who did the workshop said, at first, ahh blindfolded, that doesn't sound so interesting...They were amazed, and they said while they take the pictures how they can feel the texture of the hair, the fabric of the clothing, the skin, the eyebrows, they said regular pictures are taken in a second the exposure is so fast, this is the contact with the model, they said this brings more sensitivity and enlightens your creativity and imagination because taking the pictures, you are imagining the model and everything that is there - the clothing, necklace, the rings, if its a woman. They were experiencing things they never did before taking a photograph.
One of them, a Wedding photographer said for the first time in his life he sensed what a photograph really is. They never thought such details, little details, could be in a picture. The next day they came in with all their ideas, they dreamed about the pictures they were going to take the next day, all the props they wanted to bring in, they said it never happened before. They said, you’re not going to like this word, it was like therapy, it is because when you get involved in the pictures you forget about everything else and concentrate. And it brought up a lot of feelings.
We had a lot of fun; the touching especially brings a lot of laughs. We had a blind guy, very young, he had never taken a picture...we were taking a picture of one of the girls. I told him you have to feel her shoulder; she had a medallion over her bosom and wanted it to be bright. I said be careful! She wanted him to light it. But the medallion was a bit further down her bosom. So I said touch the medallion because, I didn't know, I thought it was next to her neck, he started touching the chain, going down, down, she said “Don't!, Stop!”... he jumped back ...”I'm sorry I'm sorry, she told me to touch!”
How do you work? I took the photography class with a pinhole camera ( which Mark was teaching ), and one day I came in and you were all taking floating heads. What was your first impression? I thought the idea about floating heads was fun and I didn't realize, when the pictures didn't come out too good, and we will have to do it again, I said "Oh my God, how can they expect blind people to make good pictures?" I didn't realize how the camera worked or anything like that, I started learning, you said come in the afternoon and take pictures with us, that's how I started. Was it confusing? At the beginning it was. I had never seen that camera. To tell you the truth I didn't think I could ever make it, because at the beginning...it’s hard to hold the flashlight and to light and have a good result. Is it hard because you can't see the result? No, no, its hard to try to get a good picture, to get the features of a person and everything involved to look right when they move, or you move, or you do something wrong with the flashlight and they come out wrong...I worry every time I take a picture and want it to come the best I can. Not because I want to be perfect, because it's work, like a piece of work, and if you like to do your work right, it takes a lot of tension, stress...I want things to come out the best I can.
If you could remember back to the period when you were loosing your eyesight, were you concentrating on how things look because you wouldn't be able to see them anymore? When I was sighted my son used to say, don't look at the person that way, but I used to like their faces, how they moved their hands, sometimes I was a little bit indiscreet - the same with buildings and landscapes. I looked everything well over so I have them still clear in my mind. From ‘96 to here it's very hard, computer animation especially.
|Ben Being Xrayed, by Sonia Soberats|
How is it working with assistance and descriptions? While they're doing that I'm trying to make the picture right in my mind...usually the person helping you knows what you want to capture in the picture. I wish I could do it by myself. But I know I need assistance, especially focusing, but remember before, I needed somebody to be with me? I always asked you for background? It’s a process little by little... more into it, the only thing is, we cannot focus. But, like you, I like to do my pictures by myself.
Where do you get your ideas from? From memory…"Mexican Bride" - I went to Chiapas. in Mexico and saw a wedding of two Indians, very young, and I noticed she was barefooted, and she wore this simple gown with a little flower and I thought it was so naive, so pretty, so pure, that always stayed in my mind. I asked Cara to be my model; I did her barefooted with pigeon toes, which means that people are shy ...that's what psychologists say...that took me a long time. I did one and Mark didn't like it and said do it at f /16, so it took so long. Setting it up was easy. I brought the dress and some plastic flowers and that horrible curtain we have around there. Which horrible curtain, we have a lot of them? The clear, but it looks pretty in the picture that has embroidery so it looks very pretty if you move it around. The one of Ben with the snakes, I saw a Voodoo Rite in Haiti, they didn't have snakes, that I invented, but the guy went into trance, he looked like how Ben came out with bulging eyes...I told Ben look up and his eyes went white, totally white, so that's when I took his eyes. Why these and not other kinds of pictures? Because people will look at them and say “Oh how pretty”...What happens is, even though I have gone through terrible times in my life, I try to erase of my mind all these terrible moments so I only bring the happy memories that I have. Is that why you like to have people smile in your pictures? Yes, but not all of them. To me, my mother used to tell me "When you smile, you open doors" And I think it's very important to smile, to smile is to show friendliness even if your in the Himalayas or Africa or China, if you go with a smile that's one step forward to someone responding to you...its a language which is universal.
|Pregnet Cara by Sonia Soberats|
How does your interest in art relate to your photography? I use to paint, to do miniature flowers for my friends, I've kept a few ones...they always asked me, give me one of your flowers...I've been visiting Museums since I was a child and seen so much art all over the world, it gets into your mind. We went to see the Impressionists in the Louvre...and I saw so much art I was dreaming about art for about a week. Your mind is full of the art you've seen. I didn't like photography before...never into it...if I went someplace I used to forget my camera; still I don't take cameras around.
Can you tell me about the tactile translations of photographs and paintings Museums use for blind visitors? I don't like them. You remember Picasso’s "Demoiselles d' Avignon?" You remember it is dark and brownish? There are five women sitting and standing and lying? With the tactile, it could be good if the person telling you about the tactile has a good idea of what they're making you understand...But first they should say, this is a brownish background, but then they go and say, the woman on the left is standing, touch the hair OK? go down the line, that's the face, then the breast, go down, that's the leg, I mean you can't understand it like that...they should first tell you what the picture is about, what the idea of the painter was...what color...to me that is the most important thing. One of the things they missed...he started using African art in their faces and eyes well, they said, this is an eye, and when you touch it you know its a little bit slanted but they don't tell you its because he's using African art, they don’t mention that...Its very difficult to set the picture in your mind. I've seen that picture before, so I know...so many lines and textures its very hard to get it, especially a person whose never seen...I was trying to explain to Ben and Fred at MoMA, the tactiles, and they were taking pictures of us because we were looking over the tactiles... everyone was touching this book, I was trying to explain, but they couldn't understand one thing...a person not into art, they would never understand...They were telling about sound...They described a picture by Duchamp - "Woman Descending a Staircase" to explain it with music, nobody understood it. ♦