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Melbourne Fringe Festival: Kristan Emerson

Readings side wall, Tyne Street, Carlton

We are delighted to play a small part in the 2019 Melbourne Fringe Festival with an exhibition by Kristan Emerson, a legally blind photographer. Emerson has been shooting the world on his overseas travels since 2016. On their own, the photographs are beautiful – but take into account that the photographer has 3% vision in only one eye and you won’t believe what he can capture. The ‘Blurry Borders’ exhibition aims to promote access and inclusion for others with visual impairment and other disabilities.

The exhibition will be visible from Thursday, 12 September until Monday, 30 September. Free, no booking required.

Read on for some words from Kristan.

I take photographs not despite being legally blind but because I am legally blind. My eyes do not have lenses, but my camera does. It is my way of seeing detail in an otherwise blurry world. Being legally blind due to cataracts, glaucoma, retinal detachments and tears, nystagmus and numerous other eye conditions, not to mention a large amount of surgeries and associated complications, means that the world is a blurry place with many closed doors.

By using a digital camera and a computer I can enlarge and enjoy images of people, places, actions and events that would otherwise be alien to my eyes. It is how I make sense of the world. The camera for me is a tool rather than an implement of art. It is a shovel that lets me dig; a net which lets me catch; a window to the wider world and a key to unlock doors that would otherwise remain firmly closed.

I have particularly utilised photography while travelling in various parts of Asia including India, Pakistan and Myanmar. As a legally blind traveller it is difficult, at times impossible, to see the sights that others take for granted. The camera allows me to see not only the tourist sites but more importantly it offers me an insight into the daily goings on of each place; of the people. Without a camera most faces would be a blur; with a camera I can put their faces and sometimes their stories into focus. Some of the images I have taken while travelling have now become the Blurry Borders blind photography exhibition.

Blurry Borders has toured galleries and libraries in regional Victoria. I am now excited to join with Readings Carlton and the Melbourne Fringe Festival to bring a slice of the exhibition to a larger audience.

Photography offers me an alternative way of seeing and Readings Carlton now offer you a different way of viewing a photography exhibition. The images are largely taken on the streets and so will be shared in a similar fashion; on an alley wall in the urban street of Carlton. Being that photography is a tool for me rather than an artform, the archival paper has been dispensed with and corflute, a material more often found on building sites than exhibition spaces will be the medium.

Each photograph is accompanied by a story which gives the reader not only an insight into the place and people featured in the images but also a glimpse as to how and why I take photographs despite having approximately 3% vision in only one eye. It is your chance to experience the world through the lens of a blind guide.

The photographs that make up Blurry Borders have been audio described to ensure that others who are blind or have low vision can experience the images and stories. The audio descriptions can be accessed via personal smart phone here.

Blind people can take photographs; deaf people can dance and those who can’t speak might just be able to tell you the best story you’ve never heard.