Blind and Yet he can See

I’m driving Dad home when I notice the distant hills outlined in the sunny haze. It’s a spectacular view in the Valley of Thousand Hills, South Africa. I ask ‘what do you see dad?’ and he describes the same as me: outline of hills, not sharp and misty. So his long range vision is unaffected, and yet at home he stumbles around almost blind. His colour sense is also dulled.

This is my series trying to understand, through the camera, how macular degeneration is affecting Dad’s sight.

I can easily change my focus from the hills in the distance, as can my camera, to notice the detail of the grasses but dad has lost that ability to see things close up. To him the stalks simply do not exist.

Colours for him are dull too so I desaturated them in my images to start to understand the visual effects of this disease.

He is blind and yet he can see.

What is Macular degeneration?

The macula is in the centre of the retina which is the light-sensitive layer of tissue at the back of the eye. Light enters the eye, through the iris, reacts with cells of the retina which send messages, through the optical nerve, to the brain. There, visual information is processed so we can relate it to the environment we are in.

Macular degeneration (AMD) causes loss in the central field of vision.

  • In dry macular degeneration, the centre of the retina deteriorates. 
  • With wet macular degeneration, leaky blood vessels grow under the retina.

Dad has both wet and dry macular degeneration. He is having regular injections into his eyes to reduce inflammation and try and save what sight he has left. There is no cure.

This is part one of my subseries ‘What do you see Dad?’

Part 2 Part 3 Part 4 Part 5

I’m in South Africa with my elderly parents for a time, my fourth visit in two years. I meld into their routine and help where I can, always trying to preserve their dignity. Their perception of life is determined by past experience, values and the current ravages of deteriorating health. My lens is recording as respectfully as possible their reality. This is a sub part of my series Plot148, not yet complete.

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