‘That night the blind man dreamt that he was blind.’ José Saramago.
Clare Hewitt’s portrait of Eugenie (below) was selected (and used on the cover of our publication) for Portrait Salon 2013.
‘I first started photographing Eugenie in 2011, around ten years after her life had been unexpectedly and abruptly changed by a stroke, which had left her severely visually impaired, unable to walk and talk, and with restricted memory. To this day she can’t be sure of her age.’
‘I was introduced to Eugenie through the Haringey Phoenix Group, a London based charity for blind and visually impaired people. I had approached them because I was keen to spend time with a person who had experienced one of my own fears, loss of sight.’
‘I visited Eugenie once a week for three and a half years and have observed many aspects of her self. The idea that Eugenie would not see my representation of her encouraged me to portray her as sensitively and transparently as possible, valuing all the time we spent together. In the end though, I could not help but make a body of work that is primarily my own emotional response to her adaptation. The work is a truth, whether it is hers, mine, or a blur of both.’
‘Through her own strength and the help of The Haringey Phoenix Group Eugenie’s condition has improved considerably, but her permanent visual damage and memory loss means she still struggles with the changes she has undergone.’
‘In one sense her life has become complicated, vulnerable and overcrowded with frustration. In another it is simple, repetitive and monotonous, an oiled routine. Either way it is far removed and excluded from the society she first lived in, with its warped ideals of beauty, strength and heroism. For her it is now a very different way of the same life.’
Clare Hewitt is a photographer based in London. After completing a degree in law, Clare returned to university to study photography. In 2011 her work was selected for Fresh Faced + Wild Eyed at the Photographers’ Gallery, and has since been exhibited at the National Portrait Gallery as part of the Taylor Wessing Portrait Prize. She is regularly commissioned by various publications including The Independent Magazine and Oh Comely.
James O Jenkins