“In March 2010, when my husband was working at Lund University in Sweden, I asked him to watch out for fog near Lund Cathedral.
One rainy morning he said, ‘There it is’.
We ran downstairs at the Grand Hotel, grabbed one of their red umbrellas, and took off. With my tiny Leica digital camera, I was far under the umbrella, but I was able to get some of the fog, some of the cathedral, and a lot of the umbrella. Wow.”
Wearing her favorite color red, the last color she could “see”, photographer Alice Wingwall is standing in front of "Red Muse" at the opening of her one-woman exhibition in the ground floor gallery of the Headquarters of The Lighthouse for the Blind in San Francisco.
Alice began her lauded career as a sculptor and educator, and moved to photography decades ago. When she began to lose her sight, she decided that would not end her pursuit of her art:
"Now almost everyone asks the same question, ‘how can you possibly, how can you?’ I realize they are making a statement, not asking a question. They smugly know that a blind person cannot take photographs and cross streets. My response is that any photograph begins as an idea in the brain."
Alice Wingwall is a complex force of nature: strong in her imagery, in her memory, funny, gentle and aware. You can actually feel the will she has to produce these strong and engaging images. Any photographer would be fortunate to produce this work; that it is done without the benefit of sight is extraordinary—but that is not the most important thing about it.
It is her use of light, composition, mood, framing and exposure to tell the story that makes the work so good.
Here Alice tells the story of a photograph she took in the Metropolitan Museum in New York City:
"The Metropolitan Museum of Art, in New York, is a magnificent example of complete access.
The last time we were there, I plopped down on the platform floor, and put my camera on the floor between my legs. Everyone looked at me, but nothing was said.
I clicked away while Rumba [her guide dog] walked toward me many times, and I got great images of her pushing the frame, this time toward the camera. Wow!
At first, I only pushed left and right, but now I knew we could push the frame almost any direction that I might imagine.
Even toward my heart."
Twenty photographs—some in color, some in black & white, taken over the decades since Alice gradually became blind—are on display at The Lighthouse for the Blind in San Francisco until May 2018.
In addition to the Braille text, there is also a print version to guide you through the exhibition.
Alice shares her thinking and process:
"I prefer to do all my shape changing, or compositional thinking, in camera.
Since I don’t, and in fact, can’t do Photoshop, I have to make these decisions in camera.
That is how my brain works, now that I am blind.
No other way, unless I would try to have someone else making these changes. No, no, no."
She tells us where and why each image was created:
“With clouds coming, Rumba looked on the vast hard packed sand on the west side of the island of Fano, just off the west coast of Jutland, in Denmark. The wind was mighty and nearly blowing us over, but I was able to photograph her observing all the tracks in the sand, the water far off, and the clouds blowing in from the North Sea. A magnificent landscape experience for me and my ‘peach power guide dog’.”
In addition to being a member of the Blind Photographers Guild, Alice is also winner of numerous awards, center of focus in so many one-woman and group shows, and the subject of a film about her work and how she produces such remarkable photographs. The pictures below provide links.
A charming short film was also introduced concurrently with the Lighthouse For The Blind exhibit. In it, Alice talks about her process and her view of life as a blind person:
Additional information about the exhibition can be found here:
Alice's website can be reached here: