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Our experience of the world, our ‘reality’, comes through our senses. The traditional five senses are sight, hearing, touch, smell and taste.

Take away the main two: hearing and sight, and imagine the world around you without images or sounds. How would you describe things?

Deafblind people have a very different ‘reality’. Their whole knowledge and experiences of the world are different.

Deafblindness is combined visual and hearing impairment, an extremely challenging condition that affects 242,000 people in the UK. The causes can be congenital or acquired later in life. Most deafblind people may have some useful vision or hearing, but some of them are completely deaf and blind.

Of all the stories I covered working as a photojournalist, photographing deafblind people was, to date, the most challenging. I have partially lost my hearing in 1998 and some sounds I heard before have been replaced by a constant noise called tinnitus.

There is no cure for tinnitus and the hearing may continue to deteriorate until there will maybe be just tinnitus. Some people I photographed experienced that. Seeing in the front of me what could be my future made it hard not to let my emotions take over, creating a filter in the front of my lens.

Not only that, as a documentary photographer, making people feel at ease in our company is an essential, but never easy, job. It is a trust-based relationship and cases like this, the camera can never become a shield between us and the subject.

When most people I photographed did not knot know what a photograph was, did not have the concept for images and could not hear the description of it or the clicks of my camera around them, the responsibility of my sight made me blind.

Distancing myself from the subject was not an option in Senses. I have met and photographed amazing people and I hope my images can make you feel as close to them as I was.

LuBru

About the Author

Luciana Franzolin
LuBru London, UK

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Senses - Fine Art Photography photo book
Published August 16, 2009
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