Ian Treherne is an Essex based photographer, who has Usher Syndrome type II. He was a 2012 nominee for the London Fringe Festival Photographer of the year award.
This is an extract of an interview in #PHOTOGRAPHY Magazine Issue 3, written by Daisy Ware-Jarrett and Genea Bailey.
Q: Most photographers rely on their vision and visual aesthetics in their work. We’ve read up on Usher Syndrome but for anyone who doesn’t know what it is, could you briefly explain what it is and how it affects you?
A: There are different types of Usher, I have Usher type II, which means I was born partially deaf, then later on in life I found out I had limited vision. My eyesight is basically what they call tunnel vision, I have a small window in front of me that I can see out of. I can’t see below, above and to the sides. It affects me on a daily basis, more so at night time as I rely on everything being lit up. Some days I don’t think about it, sometimes I do. Everyday is hard work, but somehow being stubborn and ambitious means that I seem to just get on with it really.
Q: In relation to your tunnel vision, we found a quote from one of your past interviews saying that your vision is similar to constantly looking through a view finder?
A: Yes that’s correct, though my eyesight is just a little bit smaller than the view finder. I guess I think I see more because I see less if that makes sense. I don’t know any different really.
Q: I (Daisy) found out when I was 10 that I was born with cataracts in both eyes and my eyesight would deteriorate over the years. I also discovered it could lead to operations and in the worst case I could slowly become blind. From this point on I became more creative in all aspects of life, and as I began to take photos, it had a profound effect on the way I made images. They became very visually pleasing and more creative. I almost overcompensate for my fear of losing sight through my images.
Do you feel having Usher type II has subconsciously had the same effect on your work?
A: Sorry to hear that Daisy. I’m like you, that I have an imaginary clock on my shoulders ticking away. I’ve been told my eyesight may stay the same or it may deteriorate over time. It’s something I don’t think about, but unconsciously I have fire in my creative roots that’s making me do as much as possible while I still have the sight I have. I think myself ‘lucky’, as I’ve met people who have lost their eyesight and are younger than me and are also creative. I see their frustration and it makes me sad, so I guess I’m doing as much as possible.
I’ve only been able to talk about it within the last year, before then I kept it inside, struggled and pretended I was ‘normal’ like everyone else. Last year I did an interview with the BBC and it was my way of ‘coming out’, as many people I’ve known for years didn’t even know I had the condition. It was something I wasn’t able to talk about.
Q: That sounds like a really hard time. Since you’ve ‘come out’ do you feel like it’s helped your confidence?
A: It hasn’t changed my confidence as such, but it was a huge relief to be able to talk freely about it, as I’ve always seen it as being a weakness. I still find it difficult, but I’m able to talk about my condition without feeling bad, which I can assure you was a giant step for me! I couldn’t even be in a room with someone who had the same condition as I found it difficult to face. I’m not very good at being labelled disabled, it’s not a word I feel fits in with me.
Q: Your openness about your experience is really inspiring and by talking about your struggles you are helping other people.
So one obvious question, is why photography?
A: Well I know it’s helped me overcome some of my issues with talking about it, which is huge for me! I think the recipe of stubbornness, ambition, passion, drive for the creative world of photography and bad eyesight, only makes me more determined than ever to be known as a photographer. Knowing there’s nothing I can do about my eyesight, is to make the best of what you’ve got.
Why photography – well I LOVE being creative, whether it’s doing art, playing guitar, or films, making it is what makes me tick. I was never going to be a scientist, I just don’t have that kind of mind, but with being creative I just come alive, I live and breathe it. When I was 15 I used to look at fashion magazines, I remember I was bowled over. Digital cameras weren’t invented at this time, so I carried on with my art work. While digital was making it’s way into the world, I decided I would have a go learning. I sat and learned the ins and outs of the camera. I combined my artistic skills with my camera and the new world of photography opened up. I think because it’s portable, instant and flexible it was the medium that fitted with me.
Q: One of the reasons we found out about your work was due to Photosense, a project we ran as part of #Phonar. It explores the relationship between photography and all five senses, and how they interact with each other. How important do you think the senses are in relation to photography?
A: For me it’s pretty important. For example, I photographed a building once that 99.9% people wouldn’t have noticed. I think with photography it enables me to step out the ‘box’ and look into it with my camera, I literally switch off from the mundane hustle of life and look and see everything as an artistic picture. Most people are so wrapped up with the rat race that they often don’t see the beauty around them. To me it’s obvious, others it takes time or they never really get to see it. I guess photography allows me to show what I am thinking and seeing, I like to share that with people.
Q: And is it this ‘stepping out of the box’ technique that allows you to incorporate all your senses?
A: I don’t analyse how or why I do it. It’s all about ‘the feeling’ which is instinct, you don’t question it, you just do it because you know it’s right. Music can affect your photography in some ways, I always have music on when doing a studio shoot. With my style of photography it’s about elegance, sensitivity, emotion and atmosphere.
Q: It’s really nice that you can see the beauty in such minimalistic things. With my photography (Daisy again) I try to avoid using black and white and enjoy the chaotic kitsch photography of practitioners such as David LaChapelle because I am compensating for having cataracts. So it’s great to see a completely opposite preference.
A: In photography there is no right or wrong, it’s all about preference isn’t it. It would be boring if we all liked the same things.
To see the full interview, head to #PHOTOGRAPHY Magazine.
Does your impairment or condition influence or inspire your artwork? We’d love to hear about your experiences and see any images you have to share!