A journey to discover the people who change our world.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

He Sees Beyond Sight

(Tony Deifell, Mardie Oaks and their Kitchen Table)

(At the opening of the Seeing Beyond Sight Exhibition)

On my travels the combination of blindfold and camera have made for some exciting adventures. Blindfolded I walked through a forest in Thailand and then a market in Cambodia. I wouldn’t have done it without the push from Tony Deifell, a San Francisco photographer/ social entrepreneur, who I ‘met’ through the Omidyar Network. Passing through the city, I made it a point to meet up with the mischief maker, whose photography exhibition, Seeing Beyond Sight (a collection of photos by blind teenagers) was just opening in a gallery in the city.

Tony Deifell is a talent bundle. He is has that unusual blend of analysis and creativity which lead him in fascinating ways. As well as teaching photography to blind students (which led the Seeing Beyond Sight Project), he was a founding director of KaBOOM!, a non profit which build playgrounds in neighbourhoods across the States, was the Executive Director of the Institute of Public Media Arts which promoted diversity across colleges in the States and obtained an MBA from Harvard Business School. A busy man indeed.

It’s a diverse mix, which Tony calls, ‘living in the slashes’. For him, innovation happens where disciplines meet. For him its art and business, used in combination to create social profit. Or, as he has written himself, “my ‘calling’ in life is to use my skills across different disciplines- business, social enterprise, art, media, religion, social justice to notice the cracks and help others notice them too. They are many- and the more we pay attention, the more we can work together to make the world whole again.

Fancy joining in?

Interested in the Seeing Beyond Sight Challenge- here are the instructions from Tony;

This experience isn’t about blindness – it is about seeing, noticing and paying attention with more than your eyes.
We dare you to take on the challenge of photographing blind. Sign up to do the Seeing Beyond Sight Challenge (some time in the coming year), or just check out what other people are doing.
People have done it in Africa, Cambodia, Australia and the United States.
-Blindfold yourself.
-Go out in public and make your way in the world.
-Photograph things you notice. And, just notice.
-Embrace the whole experience as much as the picture taking.
-Challenge some friends to do it.
(send them the link: sf0.org/seeingbeyondsight)

We avoided doing our own assignment – mustered a thousand excuses at first. Then, we did it, and it was as amazing as it was challenging.
Take the plunge – we dare you.

Tony’s book, Seeing Beyond Sight, a collection of photos taken by the pupils in his blind photography class, has recently been published by Chronicle Books. It was can purchased on Amazon here.

(Tony happens also to be married to the wonderful Mardie Oaks, fellow social entrepreneur – see next blog- I’m telling you, that’s one heck of a household!)


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