Philosophical Musing – Film Development and Physical Experience

I was just developing some film in my darkroom (only two rolls left from Photostock… they will be done tonight!) and while loading the rolls onto the reels in the dark, I thought about the fact that I close my eyes while loading the film, and I picture the movements in my mind’s eye. Never you mind that it is pitch black in the darkroom at that moment, so it makes no difference if my eyes are closed or not. The room’s not getting any darker with my eyes closed. It also made me think about how someone who is blind from birth perceives things like that- I KNOW what my gestures look like because I’ve seen them – I have a definite sense of the space they use and the way they form my body even with my eyes closed. But what is someone who is blind’s perception of such things? I’ve only ever talked with blind folks on a couple of occasions, and I don’t recall them using gestures when talking. If it is something they’ve never experienced, would they even be able to describe it to someone who is sighted?

2 thoughts on “Philosophical Musing – Film Development and Physical Experience”

  1. Interesting to think about. Many (most? – don’t know) darkroom workers close their eyes. (Just yesterday, a clerk in a camera shop mentioned this. One of the few remaining, but I digress …) Anyway, the conventional wisdom that blindness enhances other senses is debatable, at best. It seems to depend on when the person became blind and other variables, so not always true.

    For us sighted darkroom practitioners, I think it is simply a psychological advantage. We may perceive that it “enhances” our sense of touch even if it may, in fact, not do so. Or, we could simply be concentrating. Many times an individual will close their eyes when trying to think of something; where closing your eyes can eliminate distractions for a few moments. Or, one may close their eyes when experiencing a heightened moment of using another sense, such as taste or smell. In any event, one gets a bad feeling after loading a bunch of film with one’s eyes closed, then opening the eyes to discover a light leak!

    1. I think it may also be a question of eye strain – it becomes an instinct to close your eyes in total darkness because if there’s nothing TO see, all you’re doing is forcing your eyes to work harder to try and see something that can’t be seen. I was thinking of the blindness experience as a question of perception of self – someone blind from birth has no awareness of their appearance other than vague concepts imparted by others (handsome, pretty, short, tall, fat, skinny- if you have no perception of color, trying to describe the difference between blond and brunette is absolutely pointless). Because blind people don’t receive visual communication cues, I would imagine that they don’t use gesture when communicating. As such, would they have perception of gesture and movement the same way a sighted person would? If you’ve never seen a sweeping arm gesture, would you have a sense of what it does, how much space it takes, when you do something like stretch out your arm to unroll a roll of 120 film from its backing paper? I’d ask John Dugdale about it but he’s not a good candidate because even though he is blind, and a photographer, he did not lose his vision until well into adulthood.

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