Blind Photographer Pranav Lal

Blind Photographer Pranav Lal

This article can be found in The Avocet – The Weekly Avocet, every weekend – #401

Pranav Lal – pranav.lal@gmail.com – is a blind person who took these cool photos below.  “So, how do I, a blind person take photographs? 

The same way you do except that I use an artificial eye which converts images to sound. The conversion has set rules which I use to decode the 

sound and infer what the image is.”  After enjoying his photos, read more about this artificial eye that helps Pranav take pictures…  Very cool!!!

Be well, be safe,

Charles

Paval 03I was in the Indian state of Goa several years ago in summers for a workshop. We were at a hotel where I took the above picture. It is of reflection from the hotel’s swimming pool. Mind you, the automatic description says the picture contains a boat.

The above picture is special because it is one that I took on my honeymoon which again was in the summer on the island of Mauritius. There are few things that remind me of the promise of growth like trees and the sky. I was entering a new phase of life and the above picture represented that in terms of the greenery around me and the open possibilities of the sky.

An attempt to beat the summer heat by trekking to India’s version of an Alpine meadow. The above picture was taken close to my base camp. It was just me and nature. No mobile phone signals, no car engine noise, nothing. Just us, that is my team and the wind and some birds.

So, how do I, a blind person take photographs?

The same way you do except that I use an artificial eye which converts images to sound. The conversion has set rules which I use to decode the sound and infer what the image is.

The eye is a computer program call the vOICe made by a Dutch physicist Dr Peter B.L. Meijer. The technology is based on the principle of sensory substitution namely using one sense in the place of another. In this case, vision is being substituted by sound. This may sound very complex but it is not really so. Think of it like learning a new language. The basic elements of a soundscape are as follows.

  1. A soundscape pans from left to right such that whatever is on your left is sounded in your left ear and whatever is on your right is sounded in the right ear.  You can sense the curves of an object by the way the sound travels from the left side of your head to the right side of your head.
  2. The pitch represents the height of an object.  So the higher the object, the higher the pitch of the sound.
  3. The volume represents the brightness of an object such that the brighter the object, the louder the sound will be.  You may wonder, what would happen if you were to look at a floodlight.  Do not be concerned.  The vOICe has been designed keeping safety in mind so you will not be deafened.

I frame the scene I want to capture and then use a camera or my mobile phone to click. Yes, I use 2 bits of hardware. One is a pair of video glasses that run the vOICe while the second is a phone that actually takes the images. I prefer using a mobile phone because its user interface talks to me. I can use a DSLR camera or any other camera but then I cannot change its parameters or easily tell how much charge is left in the battery. I usually trust the technology and do not change any settings. For me, the taking of the photograph is the experience that counts. Shape and texture are the 2 main criteria I use to determine if an object is worth photographing.

I love landscapes and nature because there are so many varieties of shapes and textures thanks to differing light levels. I can change my camera’s angle a few degree and the sound changes in very interesting ways.

This is another reason I also photograph man-made structures like bridges or industrial machines. Another favorite type of scene to capture is a mix of nature and a man-made structure.   So much variety in shapes and the music of different cables intermixed with tree branches.

How to get more information: (Charles, do check if you want to include the below section. I put it in the spirit of the boxes one sees after some articles where the author has given sources.)

If you want to read about the vOICe, the creator’s website is at http://www.seeingwithsound.com

I document my photography adventures on my blog at https://techesoterica.com

 

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