A Blind Photographer Who Sees the World Through Her Camera

Tammy Ruggles gained a new kind of vision after becoming blind.

Nov 26, 2015

(Sandra Cunningham / shutterstock.com)

Tammy Ruggles always wanted to be a photographer. In her First Person Vox narrative, she writes “I'd always loved taking pictures, ever since I was a little girl, snapping shots of my family andpets with the Kodakand Polaroid cameras my mother always had around.”

But like her driver’s license and social work career, Ruggles accepted that photography was something she would have to give up due to retinitis pigmentosa (RP), a progressive blinding disease that deteriorates the retinas over time. Ruggles is legally blind, only capable of making out dim shapes. How could she practice an art form that is solely dependent on vision, if she had none?

That’s when Ruggles heard of point-and-shoot digital cameras which didn’t necessitate a dark room, exact precision, or tinkering with manual settings. Ruggles ventured into her backyard, snapping the shutter at shapes as an experiment. After transferring the images to black and white on her 47-inch monitor (she sees best in contrast), she noticed little things she had never seen even prior to losing her vision  – purplish blueberries in some brush, wild pumpkins at the edge of the woods, individual leaves on a tree. And with that, her camera became her eyes, capturing things she herself couldn’t see and had never seen.

Ruggles now considers her vision impairment an asset to her photography. Unlike most photographers who visualize what they want their photo to look like, Ruggles approaches her art with zero preconceived notions about what she hopes to capture. With her loss of vision, Ruggles gained another pair of eyes – ones that are a lens into the hidden beauty of the world around her.

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Mirele writes about everything related to doing good, with a particular interest in volunteering and social entrepreneurship, informed by her background in eco tourism.