Doug Winter, a semi-sighted photographic artist and filmmaker, studies the nuances of his impaired sight and visual limitations through bold and experimental photographic imagery. In his 2023 National Endowment for the Arts-funded project, “Echoes of Perception: Essays on Vision,” Winter’s work emerges as a spirited rebellion, a poignant reminder of the beauty within the ambiguous realms of blurred boundaries and faded reminiscences in a world fixated on pursuing digitally retouched crystal-clear perfection. His exploratory photographs and innovative use of accessibility features empower us to revel in the poetic ambiguity of our personal narratives, inviting us to confront the innate human desire to grasp the intangible, to find solace within the mysterious contours of our collective humanity, and become an active participant, forging an intimate connection between the art and the beholder.
“Photography is regarded as a truthful medium, and the images I create honor the diversity of personal truths. My body of work expands the approach to photography by using the camera as a conceptual mechanism to investigate how our human system adapts, grieves, and adjusts to significant physical impairment. Using photo-mechanical interventions, I create photographs that expose latent memories through nonrepresentational forms, text, and colors. Each image is an organized impression of memories and sensations—a colorful daydream for the spectator to experience.”
In 2012, I lost partial vision in my right eye due to a rare blood disorder. In the years that followed, I adapted to my impairment and was curious about what other people may be experiencing with their vision loss.
A few years later, my father’s health began to fail, and he developed a total loss of vision in both eyes. My impairment, coupled with my father’s disability, initiated my current project, Enter Light, which explores degrees of impaired vision.
The images are created from and inspired by the lived experiences of my father. While caring for my father, Harry, I’d ask him to describe in detail what he saw, measuring if his sight was better or worse, depending on the day. He described the shapes and colors of objects and landscapes in photographic terms and conveyed to me that what he saw was “blurry,” “out of focus,” or “was like a broken camera lens.” We talked about his life, memories of youth, lost love and growing up on a farm with little money. I based this work on our conversations.
Techniques I use are primarily analog in origin: direct digital capture without the aid of software filtration or software modification. The camera lens I used was modified by taking it apart and reassembling the elements incorrectly, removing the clear focused vision from the lens, distorting the shapes and colors of the objects I photograph. The resulting imagery pushes formal objects into a range of emotions and colors, exploring the connection degraded eyesight has to memory, color contours, and light and how they collectively comprise a vocabulary of personal reality and history. Simplified abstract forms break down visual barriers and allow a broader audience to appreciate the meditative act of experiencing art.
The work pushes beyond the two-dimensional and unlocks an impression by drawing upon the spectators’ lived experiences of spaces and objects. It transforms a casual spectator into a witness, allowing them to reach a personal conclusion about the artwork through imprinted lived experiences.
Living and creating artwork in my home studio in Elk Grove, California, allows me to be spontaneous and work anytime inspiration strikes.
Photographs of Doug Winter © 2020 Kathryn Mayo.
Artist Profile Doug Winter