Travel

The Blind Photobombing the Blind: The Lives of Romania's Visually Impaired

An interview with photographer Ciprian Hord about his latest project, "Out of the Dark."

by Ciprian Hord, Words by Robert Alexe
Aug 25 2015, 12:00pm

Aurin, the President of the Association for the Visually Challenged in Arad, photobombs Aurel.

This article originally appeared on VICE Romania.

Social media has ushered in a whole new era of communication. One where traditional language and interaction have been replaced with pictures of fancy desserts and videos of pets with above-average piano skills. According to a recent study, a typical internet user is logging 1.72 hours a day on these websites, and that trend only seems to be escalating. That said, there's also a fairly large demographic that couldn't give a shit about the endless sensory overload that is Facebook stalking—one of the main reasons being that they can't actually see.

Romanian photographer Ciprian Hord's latest project, Out of the Dark, is about documenting the lives of blind people and then uploading the pictures to the social media platforms that aren't always that accessible for them. The idea came about last year while the artist was trying to overcome a bout of depression.

"Maybe I was looking for people who were sadder than me," Ciprian said. "Given my line of work—where seeing is everything—I couldn't imagine anything more depressing than going blind. Once I started working on this project, I quickly realized how wrong my assumptions were."

VICE gave him a quick call to find out more about his work.

Aurel and Florin, both blind, at the swimming pool

VICE: How did you go about contacting your subjects?
Ciprian: I asked a friend to introduce me to people from the Romanian Association for the Visually Challenged, hoping that a recommendation would help me gain the trust of this community. I immediately met lots of great people who were more than willing to talk to me. I didn't need a middleman—my worries were completely unfounded.

How did you convince them that the sort of publicity this project would bring their association was a good thing?
I told them that I wanted to depict the everyday lives of blind people and I'd need to be allowed to hang out with them. Some people understood it from the beginning, while it took others a little longer. I still get asked: "What do you actually want to accomplish with this project?" A lot of people don't see the point in projects like this one, so it's difficult to explain my intention. But, I strongly believe in the power of images and I'm convinced that, with great pictures, I'll be able to change whatever negative attitudes or mistaken ideas people might have towards the blind.

What are the everyday lives of the people you met like?
The more time I spent with them, the more I realized that blind people live a completely normal life, full of ups and downs. Many have a successful family life: They have children, jobs, they go to concerts and to the theatre, they dance, party, have fun, and all the other stuff that we all do. Others are introverts with emotional problems and, to some extent, integration issues—much the same as many people with no physical impairment. Nonetheless, it can be tough for some blind people to do some of the "normal" activities that seem mundane to others.

Did you feel "lucky" that you are be able to see while working on this project?
After getting to know my subjects, there wasn't a single moment when I felt like I was having a better time in life than them. That misconception vanished quickly and I got to learn so many things. I learned that Olivia bakes amazing donuts, even though she sometimes uses pepper instead of sugar. Aurel knows more about computers than I ever will and he can drink me under the table. Florin is the best dancer I've ever seen, Nelu is an amazing fisherman, and Ovidiu takes his kids to kindergarten every day.

Scroll down for more pictures.

Adriana and Cristian at home. Adriana has severe eye problems and Cristian is blind.

Every morning, Ovidiu takes his daughter Aisha to kindergarten.

Aurel, who is blind, teaches computer science.

Vera and Adrian, both blind, dance at a party.

Florin and a family friend at a party.

Dana smoking near a Christmas tree.

Nelu enjoying a short break from a party.

Nicu has a cigarette after acting in a play.

Olivia, Nelu, and his daughter, Narcisa, hug each other. Olivia and Nelu are both blind.