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Backpacker Magazine – June 2010

Shot in the Dark: Q&A with Erik Weihenmayer

Blind climber Erik Weihenmayer has a new hobby: photography.

by: By Julia Vandenoever

Erik Weihenmayer sets up a shot. (Jeff Evans)
Erik Weihenmayer sets up a shot. (Jeff Evans)

photo icon PHOTO JOURNAL 
In November 2009, Erik Weihenmayer traveled to Mexico and climbed the volcano Iztaccíhuatl with a group of blind children. See photos from the expedition here.
BP: What do you get from taking photos?
EW: Accessibility to the sighted world. Photography freezes a moment so we can experience it again. Even though I can't see the result, I can relive the moment [as others look at it]. I remember the wind, the sun, the sounds, and the people there.

How did you learn to shoot?
One technique is to hone in on your subject's voice and point your hand toward him. Use your arm to guide your camera (then take your arm away). I also use the angle of my face. It's natural for me to turn toward a person who is talking to me--placing the camera under my nose helps me line up the photo. I can feel the sun, so I put my back to it. To take a landscape photo, I hear the mountains, boulders, and open space--like echo-location. My ears are my eyes. When I hear the photo, I can take it.

What's it like taking pictures?
It's liberating. I do a lot of things in the mountains that people would not think a blind person could do, but I never thought photography could be accessible to me.

What's next?
I'm working with a company to make my photos tactile. I'll be able to feel the shapes and composition.



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READERS COMMENTS

Tony Deifell
Jul 16, 2010

This is great... it was sent to me by someone who worked on a book and exhibit of photography by blind teenagers called "Seeing Beyond Sight" - http://www.SeeingBeyondSight.com

I love when boundaries are pushed to their limits!

Lodro Rigdzin
Jul 10, 2010

There is a thriving community of blind photographers at http://blog.blindphotographers.org. I'm one of them and one of the founders of the blog.

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