Seeing Beyond Sight

Excerpts from Pilgrim at Tinker Creek about "Seeing"
by Annie Dillard:

Seeing is of course very much a matter of verbalization. Unless I call
my attention to what passes before my eyes, I simply won't see it.
It is, as Ruskin says, "not merely unnoticed, but in the full, clear
sense of the word, unseen." My eyes alone can't solve analogy tests
using figures, the ones which show, with increasing elaborations,
a big square, then a small square in a big square, then a big
triangle, and expect me to find a small triangle in a big triangle.
I have to say the words, describe what I'm seeing.


But there is another kind of seeing that involves a letting go.
When I see this way I sway transfixed and emptied... But I can't
go out and try to see this way. I'll fail, I'll go mad. All I can do
is try to gag the commentator, to hush the noise of useless
interior babble…The effort is really a discipline requiring a
lifetime of dedicated struggle; it marks the literature of saints
and monks of every order East and West… The world's spiritual
geniuses seem to discover universally that the mind's muddy river,
this ceaseless flow of trivia and trash cannot be dammed, and
that trying to dam it is a waste of effort that might lead to madness.
Instead you must allow the muddy river to flow unheeded in the
dim channels of consciousness; you raise your sights; you look
along it, mildly, acknowledging its presence without interest and
gazing beyond it into the realm of the real where subjects and objects
act and rest purely, without utterance. "Launch into the deep," says
Jacques Ellul, "and you shall see."


The secret of seeing is, then, the pearl of great price. If I thought
he could teach me to find it and keep if forever I would stagger
barefoot across a hundred deserts after any lunatic at all. But although
the pearl may be found, it may not be sound. The literature of illumination
reveals this above all: although it comes to those who wait for it, it is
always, even to the most practiced and adept, a gift and a total surprise.

Seeing Beyond Sight: Photographs by Blind Teenagers
by Tony Deifell w/ foreword by Robert Coles

hardcover: 152 pages

With its ambitious, seemingly paradoxical premise,
Seeing Beyond Sight
challenges our definitions of art,
vision, and perception and what it really means "to see."

“uniquely powerful” ~ Utne Magazine

"savvy, passionate, witty, and yes, beautiful"

"This book will make you look—and look again— at how
you perceive and what you assume."
~ Shambhala Sun

Available on Amazon for $16.47 ($8.48 off) or used for only $5.95.

Book Description

Unusual as the idea may seem at first, putting cameras in the hands of visually impaired children proved to be extremely fruitful — both for the photographers, who found an astonishing new means of self-expression, and for the viewers of their images, for whom this is an entirely new kind of dreamlike and intuitive creation. Even before you know that these pictures were taken by blind teenagers, they are striking in their use of light and composition, and haunting in their chiaroscuro intensity.

Accompanying the images are the students’ own words and captions — in which we see how much the taking of pictures came to mean to them and how the creative process works in ways rarely experienced. This is a volume that speaks with rare inspirational power.

Using the physics of light as a metaphor, the images and stories take you on a journey from dark to light — DISTORTION REFRACTION, REFLECTION, TRANSPARENCE, ILLUMINANCE. While the book renders the lives of blind teenagers with 136 striking black and white photographs, it illuminates stories of danger, fear, trust, race, and beauty found in all of our lives.

Author — Tony Deifell

Tony Deifell is a visual artist and social entrepreneur. He has spent over a decade creating youth-generated media projects, including From the Hip, Youth Voice Radio, and ISM, which was recognized by the White House as a national model of diversity education, using video diaries to address race issues.

He serves as Chief Strategist for KaBOOM!, serves on the board of directors of Active Voice, advises film and television projects, and continues to develop participatory media-making productions such as WDYDWYD? (Why Do You Do What You Do?).

Tony was an artist-in-residence at the Headlands Center for the Arts, taught documentary studies at Duke University, and was a national leadership fellow with the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. He taught photography at Governor Morehead School for the Blind from 1992 to 1997.

He lives in San Francisco with his wife Mardie Oakes.

Foreword — Robert Coles

Robert Coles has dedicated much of his career to exploring the moral, political, and spiritual lives of children. He is a child psychiatrist, Pulitzer Prize-winning author, James Agee Professor of Social Ethics at Harvard, and recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian
honor. More on Wikipedia.

Publisher — Chronicle Books

One of the most admired and respected publishing companies in the U.S., Chronicle Books was founded in 1966 and over the years has developed a reputation for award-winning, innovative books. The company continues to challenge conventional publishing wisdom, setting trends in both subject and format, maintaining a list that includes fine art titles in design, art, architecture, and photography.

Designed by Julia Flagg

Accessibility — has created an accessible version of the book for the visually impaired audience, including descriptions of the photos. Go to this link for text that can be turned into Braille and
synthetic speech.