The Long Way Home


Out of Focus
March 13, 2013, 6:43 AM
Filed under: Art Gallery | Tags: , , , ,
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I was born with strabismus, a congenital eye disease more commonly known as crossed-eyes. I had two surgeries to correct it when  I was a kid,  but my vision is scarred with astigmatism; I’ve worn glasses since I was a year-and-a-half old (I still have them too: tiny plaid ones with chew marks on the temples because I tried to eat them more than wear them), and there was a period where I wore flesh-colored patches over the “good” eye to strengthen the weaker one. My mother had crossed-eyes too, but she didn’t have surgery until she was eight or nine, which damaged her vision into adulthood. I remember her right eye drifting skyward when she grew tired, much like my left one does a little bit now. It’s challenging for me to focus in photography, as well as judging focal distance, which is why some of my photos are soft-focus or blurry. It’s a personal triumph when I get a shot that’s detailed and sharp, something most photographers take for granted. I’m stubborn though, and when I love an imperfect image, I try to salvage it. Some images are just not worth saving, and I have to accept them for what they are – glimpses of the subject before my lens.

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16 Comments so far
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Lisa, I would have had no idea if you hadn’t blogged about it – and I admire you for making that public when you could have kept it to yourself. Your photos are really strong on composition and colour, as we can see by the ones you’ve posted here. They don’t necessarily need to be in focus. You capture a mood beautifully, whether in perfect focus or not.

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Comment by Debra Broughton

Debra – Thanks so much for your kind comments. It’s very encouraging to read! It was only recently that I thought about how my vision (or anyone’s vision, really) affected my work. More than anything, it just takes me a little longer to set up a shot because of my vision, which is one reason I like doing self-portraiture – I won’t keep anybody waiting too long :). The ladies in this series are good friends, and are super awesome and patient.

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Comment by Lisa

We never know how much our challenges end up influencing our perspective, creating the very particular way you see the world & translate it to film. What I know is that in the endless stream of Flickr photos, I came across yours & loved them…and never would I have guessed at your difficulty, and without making light of it, I will say that I won’t think of it when I look at your images. They’re as they should be.

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Comment by Jo

jo – this is one of the kindest and encouraging things i’ve read/heard all week – thank you! it makes me happy that my shortsightedness (or whatever you want to call it :)) is not readily apparent in my work – and that the work is speaking for itself. i wrote this not as an excuse for some of my photo flubs, but more as my fascination with them – as you said, how we see the world and how it ‘translates to film.’ thanks for stopping by too, it’s awesome to have a new reader.

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Comment by Lisa

You know I love your “imperfect” shots. Sometimes they make for the most interesting images.

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Comment by jeff

I’m lucky to have you – someone who loves the strange, warts and all.

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Comment by Lisa

I agree with Jeff and Michael (below). The images are well composed and interesting in their own right. People collect out of focus images. I have tried to get some on ebay and always get outbid, so there is an audience for them as a seperate genre of photography. If the other elements of design, colour and composition are there they can be very powerful. I particularly like the top and bottom images.

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Comment by Photobooth Journal

I’m drawn to the more imperfect photos as well when we go flea marketing for them, but I didn’t know there was a whole audience for these out there (you know what I’ll be doing after I leave this comment :)). The next time I shoot, I’ll keep your words about elements of design in mind when I do my next polashoot – and always, thanks for your insightful comments! They mean a lot.

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Comment by Lisa

I’m inclined to agree that the clarity of your artistic vision is more important than the clarity of your eyesight. The thing is, you do good work. It’s not that you do good work for somebody with strabismus — you do good work, full stop.

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Comment by greg

that, dear greg, means a lot to me coming from you, thank you! i have learned to be less frustrated when my photos don’t go as planned, and often, i wonder what it’s like to have ‘perfect’ vision.

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Comment by Lisa

I was cross eyed and had corrective surgery too Lisa.
My parents bought me pink eyeglass frames because they were the cheapest ones. It still amazes me that I wore them throughout 1st grade and nobody ever gave me any shit.

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Comment by Greg Brancati

greg – i’m always excited to hear that there are others like us out there (and a fellow photographer too!). glasses pickins were definitely slim then – but there was a lot of androgynous style when we were kids, so maybe that’s why they thought nothing of the pink frames? thanks for sharing your story!

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Comment by Lisa

Strabismis is a tough one to be sure but you have certainly managed to overcome most of its challenges–as evidenced by your quite amazing photography. Even these blurred photos manage to have such good composition that they have a rarified power. So glad you slayed the dragon!

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Comment by Michael Williamson

Thanks, Michael! I love how you put it too – ‘slayed the dragon.’ Indeed, it does feel this way, especially on photography’s good days!

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Comment by Lisa

so beautiful! perfect in your imperfection. you have been a blessing to me for 20 years…and hopefully, 40 more???

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Comment by Becky Colson

Are you trying to make me cry : )? Your support means so much to me – love you!

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Comment by Lisa




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