AmericaStoryMy story by Jady Bates

I went blind 5 years ago... I began photography only 4 years ago. Surgeries saved my vision (mostly) and once I could see again, I was terribly disappointed in how flat and ugly "reality" looked. 

I went blind 5 years ago… I began photography only 4 years ago

Surgeries saved my vision (mostly) and once I could see again, I was terribly disappointed in how flat and ugly “reality” looked. 

Keep in mind, I had experienced all my previous 40 years sighted. I experienced blindness for about 9 mos/1 year. I knew surgeries “could” save my vision, but I also knew it was possible those same surgeries might not save my vision. While I manuevered around the world in a new way, with a “twig” or “stick” as we call them (a blind cane), I envisioned reality in my mind. It looked so vibrant and beautiful in my mind. So, when I could SEE again, it was flat. The colors were flat, the vibrance did not exist the way I had “remembered” it, or rather, created reality in my mind. And then, I found a camera and realized I could make the world look as bold and vibrant as I wanted. I became obsessed with the art of photography.

My story | Jady Bates

Then I began learning photography in a tactile manner, in a darkroom, in a community college. The man, Mike Riches, who runs this darkroom is a master and has been a professional film photographer for 40-plus years. He knows everything -and- when I began asking questions, he began to point me toward biographies of the masters, work of the masters, old zines and publications that are now overlooked. He taught me the love of photography and he taught me everything I wanted to know. He is my mentor still and he continues to teach us all. My darkroom group is my home of photographer cronies. They experiment with all kinds of paper, film, toner, looks, modes, etc. We laugh, are forever irreverent and have so much fun adventuring together.

From my first roll of film I ever shot for darkroom, I got one piece into Krappy Kamera in NYC, at Soho Photo Gallery. It was a holga lens on a $15 thrift store camera and the assignment (from my mentor) was supposed to be to begin submitting to many places and publications. “And get used to the word, NO.”

And I really did get used to that word, of course, a lot. But not the first time I submitted. That first time, I got accepted. I flew to NY to see my framed photo hanging in Soho and met some members of the gallery there. What a wonderful community of artists. I was invited to share my first series of work, all on film, all shot on a Holga camera, and it was later approved for membership to the gallery and then soon after that I had two solo shows in NY. What an experience.

From there I began submitting to small magazines and began to get published. Now, I am submitting to bigger, finer publicationis (like Dodho!) and sometimes getting published. I continue to try new things. I never want to keep doing the same kinds of photos and I am curious. I love to learn, to push myself and the people around me. I seek growth in excellence and growth in wisdom; constantly. I read like a madwoman.

One image from a series where I tried to re-create HOW it looked to me as Blind. This image is what it looked like to me, crossing the street in the morning, going to work.

My story gets even crazier because I am also chronically ill with kidney disease – almost terminal, truthfully. I am like a “Smokey the Bear from being a Type 1 diabetic who never took care of herself. Take care of your bodies. Treat them like the temples they are. While I was working full-time through my bachelor’s, master’s and on toward my PhD, I was also raising a strong, young daughter. AND…about a year and a half ago I had been given this wondrous opportunity to interview famous photographers through Creatr, a video platform; which was part of Papercut Magazine… During all of this, my liver failed the first time, and I died. In fact, I was dying online in a live video interviewing Benjamin Von Wong. I do not remember that interview. I am sure it exists online somewhere still. My friends said it was a great interview, that I even got Benjamin Von Wong to draw a diagram to explain something about his methods. Shortly after that I went into the hospital, in ICU, died and came back. 

What is important in me relaying these incredible stories is not the stories themselves, but what they represent on a meta level. To all of us.

You see, in learning “all the secrets,” I know what I’m doing here. I know that I am an infinite soul in a human experience. I know that LOVE is the most and only real power in the universe and that it is the power that creates worlds. I know that each and every one of us, is a unique drop, all part of a glorious ocean. I know that we can create and do anything we want in this world. I am just beginning to realize this fully and implement this into my human life. I am a daily walking miracle – for somehow I just keep going with a vibrant heart, body and spirit. 

“I don’t believe in miracles. I rely upon them.” -anonymous  

–And even more interesting – I am doing it with a camera.

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