Andrew Follows is a photographer with a difference. He is legally blind.
Capturing something that my sight is unable to see is truly a wonder, Andrew says.
Andrew has a degenerative eye condition called Retinitis Pigmentosa. He currently has minimal sight in just his right eye. Andrew’s eyesight worsened dramatically four years ago. But instead of abandoning photography, Andrew's interest grew into a passion. Photography is now a major part of his life and career.
A man not without vision
Andrew refuses to dwell on his failing eyesight. Instead he says he is
taking as many photographs as I can before my vision is gone.
I will still continue to take photos when my vision is gone completely, he pledges. Andrew says photography is
a challenge, and it also challenges others.
Andrew takes great joy in experiencing the reactions of people when they view his photographs.
People see my photography first, and once they know it was from a blind person they understand the wow factor in my images, he says.
When I take a photograph, I am capturing an event in time which I may never experience with my own eyes, Andrew says.
It can be enjoyed and explored indefinitely. Light will never dance on water in exactly the same way, structures will collapse and landscapes flood, burn, grow and be built upon. Yet images can always be viewed.
In addition to high-quality cameras and lenses, Andrew uses computer software to help him analyse his photographs.
Using my computer I can see my images in detail, Andrew says.
I look at what I have created in the form of colours, and observe all the wonders that sighted people see but take no real notice of. Andrew believes you do not need perfect vision in order to see clearly.
When I take a photograph, I cannot see what the camera sees at that precise moment, Andrew explains.
However, I know that the image and the event will be waiting for me. In the quiet of my own space and once enlarged on the computer, the image is revealed at last. In this way the camera becomes my eyes and my photographs my only way of experiencing a past moment. Instead of wallowing in what I cannot see I become excited by what I can.
Friends also provide insights into Andrew’s photographs.
Every now and then, someone will point out something I’ve missed in a photo I have taken, Andrew says. He uses the example of a photo he took of a boat.
Sitting on the end of the boat was actually a tiny sea bird which I had not seen. This has given me much joy.
A guide and a friend
Andrew says the confident he has when venturing out and taking photographs can be attributed in part to his guide dog Eamon. With Eamon by his side, Andrew takes photos independently in a variety of different locations and conditions.
Andrew has plenty of advice for those reluctant to follow their dreams.
If you have a passion for something you enjoy, then all I can say is to run with it, he says.
Take all the help you can get to enhance your passion, Andrew continues.
If you enjoy what you are doing you will be surprised at how many doors open up for you.
Andrew is now trying to share what he has learned with others.
My photography has opened up my world to the visual arts scene where I have met some amazing people, he says.
These people are listening to what I am saying and are enjoying what I am producing.
Andrew is now trying to raise enough money to attend the Edinburgh Arts Festival in August 2012. He also wants to conduct learning workshops. Andrew wants to help build the skills and recognition of vision-impaired photographers. He is also hoping to tap into the network of vision impaired photographers in the United Kingdom to develop his craft.
Arts Victoria and other partners are working hard to assist me to have my first solo international exhibition of my work and to conduct workshops concurrently, Andrew says.