Protecting sight, photographing the unseen

So my ‘Developing Pictures: year 2’, once-a-week blogging commitment hasn’t got off to a great start (see my previous post, dated a month ago!). But, better late than never, I just thought I’d try to collect some quick thoughts on a few interesting photo/multimedia projects that I’ve seen recently and been meaning to blog about.

I’ve written previously on how photography can often be as much about what it doesn’t show us, as about what it does. It can sometimes be about what we can and can’t see. But sometimes some photographs come along that tell us something about seeing itself and – though it sounds like stating the obvious  – remind us why sight is so important to the act of photography.

Sophie Gerrard’s photographs of patients and staff at the the Akhand Jyoti Eye Hospital in Bihar, India, for the Savitri Waney Charitable Trust, reveal not only the challenges of daily life for thousands of people suffering from treatable cataract blindness, but also the transformative effect that simple treatment can offer. Her images contrast powerful, empowering portraits of sufferers and carers with simple, beautifully observed, domestic details.

As a ‘visual’ person, I would (probably unsurprisingly) rate sight as the most precious sense. The irony – and tragedy – that Sophie’s photographs would be unseen, invisible, to most of the people she has photographed cannot be ignored. Certainly, without access to the treatment that the Akhand Jyoti Eye Hospital provides, most of her subjects would become incurably blind.

I’d been meaning to blog about Sophie’s work for a while, but I was prompted to finally do so today by a related announcement. The Financial Times today launched its Christmas Charity appeal in support of the charity Sightsavers. Sightsavers carries out similar work to the Savitri Waney Charitable Trust, providing treatment and support to visually impaired people across the world, and many photojournalists have worked with the organisation to help it promote its work. So I’m particularly pleased that the Department for International Development (where I work) is supporting the FT/Sightsavers appeal this year through a scheme called UK Aid Match. This means that the UK government will match every pound raised by the FT appeal in the run-up to Christmas, effectively doubling the money that Sightsavers will receive to help them carry out their important work.

Please take a few minutes to check out the work of SightSavers, the Savitri Waney Charitable Trust, and of Sophie Gerrard. And, if you can, donate whatever you can..

To donate to the FT/Sightsavers appeal, go here.

To donate to the Savitri Waney Charitable Trust go here

To see more of Sophie Gerrard’s work, go here. Her Protectors of Sight exhibition can be seen at the Royal Society of Medicine in London for just another few days (ends on the 25th November).


About russellphoto

Photographer and multimedia producer/editor working in international development. Also on Twitter @russellphoto
This entry was posted in NGOs, photography, photojournalism and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Protecting sight, photographing the unseen

  1. Great post, nice to see such powerful images for such a well focused campaign

    • russellphoto says:

      Thanks Rowan – it’s such a basic, but important, healthcare intervention, and yes, a story brilliantly told by Sophie’s pictures!

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