While Steve Erra is legally blind, it hasn’t stopped him from creating.
The 60-year-old visual artist, who has retinitis pigmentosa, gradually lost his sight that narrowed into a small central tunnel of vision in the brightest light.
His dreams, however, are vivid. So are the photos he creates through the Seeing with Photography Collective, a group of New York artists.
Started by Mark Andres in 1997, the organization gives people of all vision levels a chance to become artists through painting with light photography, including a May 20 workshop at the Massillon Museum.
Erra first took a class Andres taught to blind photographers in 1993. He learned the light painting method to create fantastical images of glowing and distorted humans, buildings and still lifes. “Even though you stop seeing in your eyes, you keep seeing in your mind,” says Andres.
During the light painting process, Andres turns out the lights, opens the participants’ camera shutters for longer exposure times and encourages them to trace the image they see in their minds with flashlights. The mystical, light-streaked pictures are an expression of visions in the photographer’s head overlaid on people, places and things.
“You only see the little spot of light where it is at the moment,” Andres says. “It is more purely the photographer’s creation.”
The workshop aligns with the museum’s Blind Spot exhibit, which runs through May 23, and features abstract paintings that have Braille labels, tactile models, iPad touch screens and other events that make the art accessible to visually impaired people.
“It’s going to make you shake up your ideas about sight and making art,” says Andres. 121 Lincoln Way E, Massillon, 330-833-4061, massillonmuseum.org