Visual Distortions

I’m using my camera to try and understand how macular degeneration is affecting Dad’s vision, reading up about the condition as we go. My intention is not that these are scientific posts but rather that I can more meaningfully journey this next stage with my elderly father.

For now it’s him, me and my camera.

I took the above photo 18 months ago on my first trip back to South Africa, when dad was still driving but it was becoming obvious to the family that this was no longer a good idea.

His loss of independence has had a profound psychological effect on him, though, and it’s hard to witness. While I’m visiting I’m happy to drive him around and regularly ask “what do you see dad?”

Dad mentions how cars look ‘squashed’. One feature of macular degeneration is waviness and distortions around areas of scar tissue and damaged macula.

The Amsler Grid

Eye specialists detect visual problems resulting from damage to the macula using different tools, the most basic of which is The Amsler Grid. By focussing on a dot in the centre of the grid the following questions are asked:

  • Do any of the lines in the grid appear wavy, blurred or distorted?
  • Do all the boxes in the grid look the same size?
  • Are there any “holes” (missing areas) or dark areas in the grid (while keeping your eye on the central dot)? 

I photograph some bars on a window (left) and distort using Photoshop to get the image on the right. This in some way mimics distortion that may appear by viewing the Amsler Grid.

And the very top image is a distortion of this one, giving me some idea of how weird objects and particularly numbers can start to look.

Poignant Irony

The poignant irony is that, while I discuss this project with dad, he cannot look at the pictures I produce. Sometimes if I enlarge them on the screen of my computer he can see something … along with blind spots and distortions.

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

Part 1 Part 2 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 a project Plot148, not yet complete.

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