My Heart Is Not Blind: On Blindness and Perception

My Heart Is Not Blind: On Blindness and Perception


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My Heart Is Not Blind: On Blindness and Perception is a collection of stunning portraits of blind and visually impaired people taken by photographer Michael Nye. Each image is accompanied by an intimate story told by the subject concerning his or her experiences and unique perspective.

The causes of vision loss range from genetic predispositions (retinitis pigmentosa) or disease (glaucoma) to external circumstances such as accidents (struck by a train) or violence (gunshot wound). The people in this diverse group differ not only in their particular conditions and losses but also in their cultural and socio-economic backgrounds. Taken as a whole, however, the accounts of adapting to changing modes of perception are bound by a common theme of resilience, revealed in shared reactions and unexpected insights.

The subjects depicted in My Heart Is Not Blind share their experiences and unique perspectives in a personal narratives that accompany their respective portraits. Most speak of the transition from sight to vision loss, and how that has changed—and not changed—their ability to perceive the surrounding world. Some question the classification of blindness as a disability. One participant proposes that blindness may, in some ways, even aid in perception, musing, “if you can always see the sun, you can never discover the stars.”

My Heart Is Not Blind offers a window into the world of the blind and visually impaired, revealing surprising similarities and fascinating differences alongside compelling accounts of survival, adaptation, and heightened understanding. The collection invites us to reconsider what we think we know about blindness in order to gain a deeper understanding of vision and perception.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781595348746
Publisher: Trinity University Press
Publication date: 03/19/2019
Pages: 240
Sales rank: 526,454
Product dimensions: 8.60(w) x 10.10(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Michael Nye practiced law for ten years before pursuing photography full time. He has received a Mid-America National Endowment for the Arts grant in photography and a Kronkosky Charitable Foundation grant, and he has exhibited and lectured widely at museums and universities nationally and internationally, including in Morocco, India, and Mexico. His journeys to photograph around the world include projects in Russian Siberia, Iraq after the first Gulf War, Palestine, China, and Labrador, and he has participated in two Arts America tours in the Middle East and Asia. His documentaries, photography, and audio exhibitions Children of Children, stories of teenage pregnancy, and Fine Line: Mental Health/Mental Illness and About Hunger & Resilience have traveled to more than 150 cities across the country. He lives in downtown San Antonio.

Read an Excerpt

I forget many times that I am blind. It usually takes other people to remind me. I don’t even think about it. It’s a part of who I am. I do my daily tasks at work. I’ve accepted that I am blind, and can do pretty much everything that a sighted person can do.
As a child I had no visual impairment. We had a tall tree in our back yard. I remember thinking, “What does everything look like from up there?” I started to climb the tree and realized that I could jump onto the roof of our garage. I walked around the roof and looked at my backyard, our house, and the street from that perspective. It was just the greatest thing. I was fascinated by the aerial view perspective.
Today visualizing images in my mind’s eye is a big part of how I function being blind. I still like to imagine places from a bird’s eye perspective. I create images in my mind of places I visit. I’m fascinated by new buildings. The minute I walk in a door I start to visualize—based on the information I’m receiving through my other senses. With my cane I receive new information. Constantly I’m changing and repairing my mental images. There are times when my mental images are so real that I feel I can almost see.
My name is Marti. I am thirty-eight years old. I am married to a wonderful man, and we have a beautiful two-year-old daughter. I currently work at the San Antonio Lighthouse for the Blind where I’m an assistive technology supervisor.
I do like learning. That makes life interesting. As a child I had a photographic memory. When I was in grade school somebody asked, “Did you study for the test?” And I thought, “Oh no. I forgot there was a test today.” The teacher gave us ten minutes to look over the material. I started on the first page and I captured every page of that chapter in my mind. When she called time I put the book under my desk. I remember reading the test questions and searching for the answers in the book in my mind and actually seeing the pictures, the colors, the captions, and the subheadings. It was all there. When we got our grades back my friend knew I didn’t study for the test. She asked, “What grade did you get?” I showed her my grade and her jaw dropped. She couldn’t believe it. And I couldn’t either.
I also have a fascination with numbers. Not calculating them but remembering them. And for as long as I can remember, anytime somebody said a series of numbers I memorized them. They could’ve been completely insignificant. My mother worked at a nursing home. She worked with a different person every day. I had memorized all of their phone numbers, zip codes, addresses, and her schedule.
I was diagnosed with Cone and Rod Dystrophy after my first semester of college. It affects the central vision first and then it works its way out to peripheral vision. Basically your cones and rods are deteriorating. After many tests, I remember walking into the doctor’s office for the results. The doctor seemed very cold to me and almost heartless. He told me that I was legally blind, and that I would continue to lose sight. He said, “You can go to bed tonight and wake up tomorrow and see nothing.”
I went home and had problems sleeping. It was because the doctor’s words echoed in my head. “You can wake up totally blind.” I was miserable. I wouldn’t do anything. It was hard for me to even get out of bed. So I had to rethink everything. Finally I thought, “I can’t live like this. I’m not getting anywhere. I’m actually going backwards. I can’t live with the fear. It’s very lonely, dark, and depressing. I’m going to go to school, and have a great career. I’m going to keep moving forward. As the challenges come, I will take them one at a time.” Actually, I think being challenged makes me feel human. Makes me feel alive. It reminds me that I have a mind of my own. It was difficult for my friends and family to understand. I had to let them know that everything was going to be fine.
It amazes me how people sometimes view blind persons. People tell me, “If I lost my sight, my life would be over.” I respond by saying, “Do you really know that to be true? You’d be surprised at how resiliently your body and mind can adapt to change.” I’m guessing the public fears the unknown. I get frustrated when my intellect is questioned. Because I am blind, the sighted think I’m not very smart and they talk down to me. It even happened to me with my college professor, which surprised me.
Any time I’m out in public, it’s no secret that I’m blind. I have a white cane and I wear sunglasses because I’m sensitive to the light. I’ve had people just straight out ask me, “Oh. Do you know sign language?” And I respond, “No. No, I don’t. Do you mean Braille? Braille is tactual. Sign language is visual.” Which again—it’s all ignorance.
When I found out I was pregnant I was completely elated. It was just a magical moment. I remember thinking, “How amazing it is to have a child. To be a mom.” I had a dream that I could see through my round belly. It was like a snow globe. A clear crystal ball. I could see my baby girl in there. She looked like an angel. She had this long flowing hair, and was wearing this beautiful dress. It was almost like she was in clear water. In my dreams I’m not blind. So people I talk to every day are in my dreams and I see them clearly.
When my daughter was born I remember feeling her with my hands. I studied her arms and her fingers, long thin fingers. I would feel her face and her little ears.
As soon as I got home reality set in. I thought, “Oh, no, I have a baby. What am I going to do? I’m blind. I was fearful of the unknown. I started to do research. What do I need to know as a blind parent? I found comfort in talking to moms who were blind. In some cases, they had four or five children who were already grown. I started talking to them, and they made me feel comfortable. As soon as I got to know my daughter and she got to know me, it was very natural. The worry wore off.
My daughter understands that I can’t see. So if she says, “Mommy, a mosquito bit me right here,” she would put my finger right on it. When she was fourteen months she asked for a cane like her mommy. So we had a cane made in her size. I remember when she saw the cane she was so excited. She immediately put it down on the floor and was using it the way I use my cane. She holds it out in front of her and sweeps left to right as she’s walking. When we leave the house and I’m walking out with my cane, my daughter asks, “Where’s my cane? I need my cane.”
I never realized how intrigued I was by people until I couldn’t see their facial expressions. So I had to pay more attention. To the tone of a voice. It’s a lot of things. It’s their words. I don’t judge anyone by what they look like. I wouldn’t describe seeing as being a better sense than any of the others. People ignore their other senses. So much is missed and it prevents someone from going deeper. My answer to someone who would say, “Why travel if you can’t see?” My response to them would be, “Why do anything?” Experience is not just visual. It’s feeling emotion. Tactile. It’s smelling. It’s listening. There’s so many ways to experience moments to their fullest.

Table of Contents

- Contents
• Introduction
• 46 people
• Index of Medical Conditions and Circumstances
• Acknowledgments

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