Esaraa Ismail is visually impaired but hasn’t let that stop her from taking up photography. Instead of relying on her eye, she uses her senses of hearing and touch to guide her throughout the image-taking process.
Ismail is based in Alexandria, Egypt, where she hopes to pursue journalism. In order to study media, Ismail found that she had to pass a photography assignment before she could be admitted. Although she was born blind, she persevered.
She came across an initiative founded by professor Khalid Farid, which helped her develop her photography skills further. In an interview with Reuters, Ismail reveals that she was surprised he went straight to teaching her how to work with a camera, instead of first starting with a smartphone.
According to Teller Report, Ismail spends time learning the craft by photographing business owners and locals walking along the Alexandria Corniche which overlooks the coast of the Mediterranean Sea, with most commenting positively on her talent.
To compose her photographs, she relies on touch to feel out the dimensions of her subjects and uses voice to determine the location of people in front of her camera. She asks her subjects to continuously speak up so she can use that to guide her as she steps back to compose the picture.
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Ismail is currently a graduate of the Department of Arabic Language and Literature and hopes that her portraits taken around Alexandria will provide her with enough experience to get accepted in her media studies.
“It is really difficult, but I liked to go through the experience and deal with people, to know more, to gain relationships, and to feel that I did something useful that I love,” she says.
According to National Geographic, visually impaired photographers can use not just sounds and touch but also smells to guide their cameras. They can also measure the extent of light and shadow by touching an object to feel which part of it is most warmed by sunlight.
Also, instead of just social media and websites, visually impaired photographers often share their photographs with their friends and family “as a means of conveying their experience.”