A Modern Beethoven > Pete Eckert
by Layal Alkhatib
Blind photography is gaining ground in the world of contemporary art, with worldwide exhibits, and visually impaired artists with an eye for creativity, proving that losing sight is not synonymous with losing vision. The photographers rely on mental structuring to capture the fleeting moments of life, in effort to reflect their thoughts in a world where they are tourists in the dark. To gain more insight into the world of blind photography, Oasis Magazine interviewed Mr. Pete Eckert, an award-winning blind photographer who lives in Sacramento, California.
Losing his sight at the age of twenty-eight, Mr. Eckert picked up photography afterwards as a medium to manifest his reality in an unsighted world and as he noted “I’m a visual person, I just can’t see.” With his photographs exhibited nationally and internationally, Mr. Eckert received well-deserved recognition for his creativity and talent, winning many photography awards, including: first place in the 2008 “Exposure” competition by Artists Wanted in New York, the Merit award at the 2005 Roseville Arts 30th Annual Open Show in California, and the award of Outstanding Artist, Insights 2003, at the San Francisco Arts Commission Gallery City Hall.
Breaking free of assumptions and stereotypes, Pete Eckert continues to remind us through his impressive feat that nothing is impossible and the sky’s the limit.
How did your career in photography begin?
When I went completely blind I wanted to create an art form by touch and so I’d work on woodcuts, and they would get larger and larger with me using power tools, but I realized I needed a more direct method of creating art work. My interest in photography started when, while cleaning up some drawers, I found my mother-in-law’s old 1950’s Kodak camera, which had an infrared setting on it, and I was fascinated by it.
What is the technique you follow when you take your photographs?
My photography technique is based on slow-speed photography and painting with light. I would take a photo on location outside, and then in the studio I would use the double exposure technique, and beyond that extreme multiple exposure with low light and I would add in more and more light.
How would you describe your photos?
My photographs are one-shot cinema, with each photograph bringing up a story in one’s mind.
What motivates you in your photography?
My motivation comes from trying to show sighted people the world from a blind perspective.
Who is your inspiration?
Muhammad Ali! He is a great fighter, who became ill but did not give up.
Of the many photography awards you have won, which one stands out the most?
Winning the 2008 Exposure Photo Competition award hosted by Artists Wanted in New York. It stands out because the competition also included sighted photographers.
How would you describe your journey in life thus far?
Blindness separates me from reality while I’m still in the world; most of my days that I spend working are not around sighted people so I tend to forget I am blind. Think of your senses, you have so much brain power, and if you take out vision, you enhance the potential of your other senses. When you are visually impaired, sound and touch are enhanced, and you get the opportunity to investigate your other senses. I think vision gets in the way, and people can actually be limited by vision. I have a black belt in martial arts and while being an instructor some of my students would ask me to blindfold them and I noticed that when blindfolded they were not light on their feet and had heavy movements making them an easy target, and so having vision doesn’t necessarily mean seeing.
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