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Matinee: 'The Blind Photographer and the New Arteon' Share This on LinkedIn   Share This on Google   Tweet This   Forward This

5 August 2017

Saturday matinees long ago let us escape from the ordinary world to the island of the Swiss Family Robinson or the mutinous decks of the Bounty. Why not, we thought, escape the usual fare here with Saturday matinees of our favorite photography films?

So we're pleased to present the 199th in our series of Saturday matinees today: The Blind Photographer and the New Arteon.

Stephan Fallucchi's short clip of Pete Eckert's photo session with Volkswagen's new Arteon sedan begins with a mystifying quote by the photographer. "I'm a visual person. I just can't see."

As Eckert approaches the car with his walking stick, he explains he hasn't always been blind. For about half his life he could see.

When he learned he would lose his sight to retinitis pigmentosa, he searched for an art form that could describe the world of the blind. Not mimic sighted photography.

He had been trained in sculpture and industrial design and worked as a carpenter at the time. He had planned to study architecture at Yale. Instead he moved home to the east coast, married his devoted girlfriend and earned an MBA and a black belt before he finally lost his sight.

'I use sound, touch and memory to see.'

He moved back to California, working for the state in a program for the blind for a while. But it was a frustrating experience. He wanted something fun to do.

He tried woodcuts but they tried his patience. Going through a drawing one day, he found his mother-in-law's old 1950s Kodak camera with, he discovered, an infrared setting.

"I thought a blind guy doing photos in a non-visible wavelength would be amusing. I was hooked. I knew nothing about film or manual cameras," he says.

That was just the beginning.

What he came up with was an approach to photography that is partly his imagination but built on all his other senses. "I use sound, touch and memory to see," he explains.

We see him examine the Arteon, which he describes as very sculptural with a clamshell hood and what Jeff Sabatini writing for Car and Driver calls "a tough, fastback design with fat haunches and a quasi Kamm-tail hatchback."

"I work in slow speed photography and dim light to mimic what it's like to be blind," he says as we see him flash a hand-held light off the car and a reflector as he goes around the Arteon building the image.

And, yes, we do see the resulting images, which are unlike conventional automotive photography, echoing rather than enhancing the lines and color of the pristine vehicle. They seem to generate a sort of heat all their own.

"You don't need eyes to see beauty," he says, presumably with a smile we can't see.

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