The Pilot Programme
Plus Community Partnership conceptualised the SENSORY PHOTOGRAPHY™ programme and early 2018, a collaboration began with Malaysian Association of the Blind (MAB) and Studio DL Photography.
Photographer (Studio DL)
The objective is to empower the visually impaired with the opportunity to explore an activity they previously had no access to. Firstly, the SENSORY PHOTOGRAPHY™ programme is centred on Photography as a channel for self expression. Secondly, it could lead to an additional source of income.
There are over 488,000 visually impaired Malaysians (Source: National Eye Survey 2014) with limited career opportunities. Between 2012 and 2017, only 360 are employed and 200 are skilled (Source: Estimated from MAB from registered cases in Jabatan Kebajikan Malaysia).
The pilot programme from 10 March to 2 June, consisted of 10 lessons with 9 participants.
After each class, a chapter of the lesson was written and at the end of the programme, a syllabus was compiled into a handbook on teaching the blind the art of photography. This is a first in Malaysia.
SENSORY PHOTOGRAPHY™ -
The Social Impact
In the duration of the 10 classes, the visually impaired students were empowered with the knowledge of photography, starting with learning the basics of camera handling.
For those whose photographs are exhibited, they now have the skill and output from an activity dictated solely for the sighted, as well as a new-found self-confidence and a ‘can-do’ spirit.
In a programme that involved interaction between the sighted and the blind, there was a sense of inclusiveness and equality. The knowledge platform was two ways, where the blind and sighted learnt more of each other’s world, and at the same time improving tolerance, acceptance and perception.
The programme has challenged the status quo of the capabilities of a marginalised community. And now the SENSORY PHOTOGRAPHY™ Exhibition is proof that those visually impaired have the potential to do more and offer great artistic perspectives in a sighted world.
The Exhibition 8 - 27 September 2018
As a new act of empowerment for a community, SENSORY PHOTOGRAPHY™ is one of the many platforms for a progressive Malaysia. Appropriately, the exhibition is centred over the period of Hari Merdeka and Hari Malaysia.
The exhibited photographs were made accessible to the sighted as well as the visually impaired. The collection showcased 70 Photographs, out of which 28 were featured as Tactile Photography accompanied by Audio Descriptors.
This again, is another first in Malaysia.
Sensory Photography Photographers
All are legally blind at different degrees of visual impairment. The classifications are:
B1 : total blindness
B2 : partial vision of shadows and movement
B3 : severe low vision / tunnel vision
Jamaliah Bte Mohd Yasin (B1)
Jamaliah was diagnosed with Glaucoma 30 years ago. Over the years, her sight failed gradually and at the age of 60, she lost her vision completely. The most senior in this group, she is the most spirited. She interacts wonderfully with strangers and this eagerness to explore, enables her to capture portraiture of people on the street with ease. Her last assignment where she gained talent direction experience as an event photographer, was a huge success.
Ahar Bin Tabe
Ahar is from Sabah and he suffered visual impairment since childhood. He is able to make out vague shapes and colours without any details. Now in his early 20’s, he is using the camera as a tool for self-expression. Ahar is shy and quiet, and although reserved, his choice of subjects and environment speaks volumes about the way he feels in that moment. In his photographs, he often expresses a passionate connection to his childhood and hometown.
Rashidi Bin Abdullah (B3)
Rashidi started losing his sight in his early teens. Today he is managing with partial tunnel vision. His sight is gradually collapsing in from the sides; a condition that will regress to total blindness over time. Rashidi is drawn to geometry and he is fascinated with the way shapes collide and harmonise. With tunnel vision, the shape of his world is organically different from a sighted person. He is also an accomplished poet and often pairs his sajak to the images he captures.
Kwek Chu Lan
Vivian is an active participator and organiser in activities for the visually impaired. She is impaired with an extreme low vision and a severely impacted night vision. Vivian enjoys the outdoors. She is an avid cyclist as she is a photographer. Her subjects in photography makes for thoughtful pieces, capturing the world at large and the humans who attempt to fit in. Stunning, subjective and resembling a Chinese-styled painting, at the core, there is depth in meaning for philosophical minds.
Suzie is from Klang. She has an impairment that reduces her sight to only vague shapes and shadows. If there is one word to describe her, it is ‘unafraid’. Eager to experiment, she has her way of blending into any surrounding to capture a story. Suzie on the go with a camera is able to tell stories that span from humour to intrigue and simple joys. Her work also carries a reflection of her inner self, and is laced with nostalgia.
Theng Tze Young (B1)
Theng was an engineer before he lost his sight in a car accident.
He is determined to show that even with his visual disability, unexpected achievements are still possible. As a father, he wants to set a purposeful example for his children. Theng is totally blind hence, his approach to photography is guided by instinct to gauge distance and texture. His subjects may be varied but his storytelling consistently uses emotion as the lens.
Svivabalan A/L Selvarajan (B2)
Svivabalan was the youngest in the group. His visual impairment permits him to see blurred forms and any recognition is only by extreme close-up. Svivabalan was a master at chess and had represented Malaysia in tournaments. As a photographer,
he had a quirky sense of humour. Experimenting with colours,
close-ups and unusual concepts, he enjoyed showing his audience a different perspective of appreciating a scene. Sadly, Svivabalan passed away shortly after this photography stint.