Art: Unique vision from a blind photographer
She may be registered blind, but a 15-year-old student fills her Instagram account – @a_blind_photographer – with delicately composed and colourful photographs.
Though Roesie Percy cannot see details, she can see shapes and colours. “Her eyes will look around and her brain will map the picture together,” her mum Angela explains. “She’s a visual learner.”
Roesie smiles: “It’s a bit ironic, really.”
When she was younger, Roesie was asked to draw a Union Jack flag.
Usually, the square would be drawn first, then the cross, and the colours would be added last. Instead, Roesie drew the cross and triangles of colour first.
“She sees things differently,” Angela says.
It’s this which makes Roesie’s photography so unique.
Roesie’s dad got her into Instagram when she was in Year 7 at Bristol Cathedral School, “So I just started taking loads of pictures,” she says.
Having a platform to present her work has boosted her confidence.
Angela explains that Roesie has always been particular about colours and styles: “From the age she could make decisions, she knew exactly what she wanted to wear and what she wanted to look like, to the extent that if something was slightly wrong she wouldn’t wear it.”
In her photography, too, Roesie is picky. She has an instinct about what will make a good image.
On a visit to cafe, Roesie is asked what she would photograph.
She scans the room and points away from the central area, towards an empty space at the back. It is dim apart from a few hanging lampshades.
Led by light, colour and shape, Roesie turns away from what most people might think to photograph.
“It’s quite dark so I’d try to aim the light of the candle to try to get some of the light up there.”
Her unique viewpoint allows for delicate compositions and gentle handling of light and tone.
It is the colours that tend to initially strike Roesie about a scene. Describing the image above, she says: “That was taken in our maths department in school. I just saw the colours, the bright green and orange.”
She was taken by the light shining through into the class, and on Instagram, she adjusted the filters to brighten the colours and dim the shadows.
As Roesie can only see a little out of her left eye, and hardly uses her right eye, she has no central vision and limited depth perception. But this doesn’t stop her from challenging herself and throwing herself into difficult tasks.
Roesie has been rowing for four years and in 2016, with the help of a two-way bluetooth radio headset, beat another blind woman in a race – an achievement for which she was named a Bristol Young Hero.
With the approach of her GCSEs, Roesie is cutting back on the rowing training, but increasingly becoming invested in her photography.
Her Instagram feed covers a wide range of scenes, with the landscape of Bristol mapped out through its bold lines and melting colours.
“I find them amazing to look at,” she says. “It’s not necessarily the details but the colours.”
Roesie faced her fear on Whitley Bay in Newcastle to take the photograph above of smashing waves frothing upwards.
“I tried to time it perfectly. The waves were lapping up against the wall so I tried to get the right moment. I don’t take hundreds but I take a few. That one struck me.”
Roesie has always lived in Bristol. Her favourite spot is by the harbour, but she dreams of living in New York surrounded by skyscrapers: “I really like tall, modern buildings.”
The symmetry of new buildings are clear to her vision, whereas the delicate facades of historic architecture are trickier to make out.
There is also a practical element to her preference: “In old buildings I feel a bit on edge. I guess because in modern buildings most of the floors are flat but in older buildings the floors are a bit uneven so I’m always a bit unsure of my footing.”
Look out for a new viewpoint on her feed when Roesieand her family visit the Big Apple in October. “I kind of want to do the Gossip Girl tour,” Roesie laughs.
In many ways Roesie is an ordinary 15-year-old girl. She is bright and bubbly, and passionate about her hobbies. Yet her disability gives her a unique perspective.
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