broken glasses are seen at the Virunga Hospital, Ophthalmology Department – Bukavu, RDC July 2005

Ogen en het kijken. Niet alleen naar het wondere in de wereld maar ook naar de onmogelijkheid van het kunnen kijken. Blind zijn. Je ogen verliezen bijvoorbeeld vaak door armoede.
Dat was wat fotograaf Stefano De Luigi (1964) deed van 2003 tot 2007. Blanco, een serie, een boek.

Stefano De Luigi (1964) began this series in India, in 2003, where he was working on a commission for the International ONG CBM to produce photographs with which the group could publicize its services for the blind. When the assignment ended, De Luigi found that his fascination had only just begun. He was to spend the next four years shooting at hospitals and schools for the blind in sixteen countries.”

A patient is waiting for a cataract surgery, Cocin Hospital, Nigeria, Mangu, July 2004

Blanco is a photographic project whose purpose is to report on the blind condition worldwide of Onchocerciasis, also known as river blindness, and to inform about the battle with this disease, and when it is possible to prevent and cure it. Onchocerciasis is the world’ s second-leading infectious cause of blindness. It is caused by parasitic worms transmitted through the bite of the black fly which live in fast-flowing rivers, and along fertile banks where farming communities are often located. The WHO (World Health Organization) have a project called World Vision 2020 , which aims to put an end to the condition of permanent blindness by 2020. The journey Blanco (since blindness is seen as a constant vision of white), starts in 2003 and ends in 2007, reporting on the blind conditions in four continents and the countries Liberia, Nigeria, Uganda, Rwanda, Congo, Peru, Brazil, Bolivia, Thailand, China, Laos, Vietnam, Bulgaria, Lithuania.

In the courtyard of the Gindiri’s School for Blind, students are waiting for table’s school. Nigeria, July 2004

Het project werd intussen verlengd. Ook de universiteit van Antwerpen met prof. Robert Colebunders werkt mee aan het bestrijden van Onchocerciasis en de mogelijke epileptische gevolgen. (Nodding syndrome-Knikkebol-ziekte)
Onchocerciasis, ook bekend als rivierblindheid en de ziekte van Robles, is een ziekte die wordt veroorzaakt door infectie met de parasitaire worm Onchocerca volvulus. Symptomen zijn onder meer ernstige jeuk, bultjes onder de huid en blindheid. Het is de tweede meest voorkomende oorzaak van blindheid als gevolg van infectie na trachoom.
De parasietworm wordt verspreid door de beet van een zwarte vlieg van het type Simulium. Meestal zijn er veel beten nodig voordat infectie optreedt. Deze vliegen leven in de buurt van rivieren, vandaar de naam van de ziekte. Als de worm éénmaal binnen een persoon is binnengedrongen, creëert de worm larven die vervolgens hun weg naar de huid vinden. Hier kunnen ze de volgende zwarte vlieg infecteren die de persoon bijt.

A Blind patient is waiting to be visited, ophthalmic department, SDA Cooper Hospital, Monrovia, Liberia, June 2003.

De Luigi keeps the frames tight and does not let any props into the field. On some occasions he is so radical in the way he strips the composition right down that the work is not far from the constraints associated with identity pictures. He uses colour sparingly, and abstains from the kind of contrasted lighting that stirs and seduces. These could be seen as negative peculiarities: all the things he “does without” and all those he does not want. But the fact that he does without is essential. It would have been simple to draw a particular form of pathos from blindness. It is only too easy to imagine what others might have done, such as enhancing the shadows to work up the symbolism or focussing on emblematic gestures like a hand feeling its way or a grimace of despair, or the scars of decrepitude and picturesque exotic misery. Such has been the leitmotiv of Western photography. (Philippe Dagen)

School for blind Khon Kaen. A group of students is going to class helping each others by moving in group. China, November 2005.

The truth is, some of these portraits are close to unbearable. The people who feature in these images will never see them. Whoever looks at them cannot begin to mentally place themselves in the position of the “models” – if one can even use that term in this instance. The viewer’s vision has no other subject than the absence of vision in the look of the blind person. All there is to see is what it means not to see. The only thing to do is to examine these eyes or sockets through which no vision ever passes. The clearer and brighter the photograph, the more one is aware of the fact that it is a privilege to be able to look at it at all, and that this privilege could be taken away or never have been granted at birth. Every image carries a warning or a threat. That is how powerful these photographs are. It is therefore hardly surprising that they become etched in our memory with an authority that seems remarkable given that we are saturated by images, consuming and absorbing enormous quantities of them but retaining very few, if any. (ibidem)

Hanoi , Vietnam, May 2006, U.N.I.O. (National Institute of Ophtalmology), Hospital ,two child during a optometrist visit.

De Luigi is a photographer who questions the power of the “visual”, the conditions under which it is used, and its limitations. This means that in photographing blindness, he has pushed his thinking to its most extreme point: the moment in which vision is abolished in solitary darkness. It is the moment in which there can be no more images, no more representation, no more “visuals”, no more of those things that make up the daily lives of people on this planet. The coherence in De Luigi’s body of work is remarkable.

PHILIPPE DAGEN is a writer, art critic of Le Monde, exhibition curator and Contemporary Art professor at the Sorbonne University. He lives and works in Paris.

A young student of Nguyen Dinh Chieu School, he suffer from a total absence of eye balls, a consequence of the use of agent Orange, useb by USA air force during the Vietnam War .Hanoi, Vietnam, June 2006.

De functie van deze foto’s bestaat niet alleen in een confrontatie, maar helpt je de deur openduwen naar een ruimere wereld waarin de noodlijdende buren om begrip, kennis en hulp vragen. De combinatie van deze drie biedt een werkelijk perspectief waarin medevoelen wordt aangevuld met daadwerkelijke hulpprogramma’ s waarin opleiding en gespecialiseerde zorg ons samenbrengt.
In het mooie filmpje hieronder probeert Stefano De Luigi dat op zijn manier te vertolken.

bezoek de website van Stefano De Luigi:

Kaunas Training center for Blind and Visually Impaired-Martrynas Vitkus, 13 years old, December 2006, Lithuania

What is the look of a blind person? Can unseeing eyes show joy, happiness, disappointment, pain, suffering, pity, regret? Does the absence of sight on the part of the subject also convey an absence of complicity with the camera’s lens?

We use the term “blind” indiscriminately. In other words, a blind person can be fat, poor, rich, white, black, woman or child. It doesn’t matter if blindness happens in Africa, Asia, or in the oldest parts of Europe. Wherever the person is, they cannot see the light, the colors or the daily scenes around. They can’t see how awful and gorgeous the world can be.

So, it becomes easier to ignore the blind. Since their handicap isn’t obviously visible, we can pretend not to think about it. But even if they seem “normal,” they’re not. The blind have their own worlds: one that is the same as ours and another that is wholly different. It is made of different feelings, different images, different colors. I can’t see it—but perhaps I can help you imagine it.

—Stefano De Luigi

In the courtyard of the school for blind people of Nguyen Dinh Chieu, a young student does’nt find her way to the classroom. Lampang, Thailand November 2005