Monday, August 5, 2019

Disabled Arts on Camera, Part 2: "Vision Portraits" by Rodney Evans

Dancer Kayla Hamilton,
one of four artists featured in Vision Portraits
(photo: Kjerstin Rossi)
Writer Ryan Knighton telling his story at The Moth
(photo courtesy of Vision Portraits)

(2019, USA/Canada/Germany; 78 min.)
written and directed by Rodney Evans

The documentary Vision Portraits introduces us to four dedicated artists whose lives, careers and creative approaches have been profoundly impacted by diminished or lost sight. They include art photographer John Dugdale, our beloved dance colleague Kayla Hamilton, Canadian writer Ryan Knighton and the award-winning filmmaker himself, Rodney Evans, best known for his 2004 narrative feature, Brother To Brother.

filmmaker Rodney Evans
(photo: Kjerstin Rossi)

We visit with these appealing and thoughtful people, the stories and glimpses of the work of the first three interspersed with the story of Evans's attempts to reverse the degeneration of his vision from Retinitis pigmentosa. Evans also wants to share with us how impairment affects vision through occasional images simulating fuzzy or dim sight, narrowed visual range or--as in the case of Dugdale--a nonstop internal light show of spectacular colors and effects.

Self-portrait of photographer John Dugdale

Dugdale's photography, achieved with assistants who adjust lens focus, is deeply poetic, melancholic and moving. When a stroke befell him at the age of 30, taking all but a crescent-like sliver of his sight, he told his mother "What makes you think I'm not going to be taking pictures anymore? I'm going to be taking pictures like crazy now!" I am grateful for that indomitable spirit; the work is so beautiful.

It was also fun to get to know a little about Knighton (author of the memoir Cockeyed), who considers his blindness to be a door onto "a different way of living, a different point of view." His blindness opened a portal to deeper honesty and a wicked sense of humor. If you watch this documentary for no other reason, you will value it for the concise yet uproarious story of the trip he took with his brother to a snake rodeo in Texas. It's a safe bet you'll never set foot at a snake rodeo in Texas or any other state but also a safe bet you'd enjoy hanging out with these guys.

Vision Portraits opens in New York City at Metrograph on August 9 and in Los Angeles at Laemmle Royal on August 23.


DISCLAIMER: In addition to my work on InfiniteBody, I serve as Senior Curatorial Director of Gibney. The postings on this site are my own and do not necessarily reflect the views, strategies or opinions of Gibney.


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