Filmmakers have always faced an obstacle when it comes to depicting blindness on screen; some topics resist elaboration in a visual medium. But in the essay documentary “Vision Portraits,” the filmmaker Rodney Evans suggests that going blind can lead to new ways of seeing.
Evans (“Brother to Brother”), who has been losing his eyesight because of a condition called retinitis pigmentosa, presents portraits of artists who have varying levels of visual impairment. In one way or another, the subjects have drawn on their experiences to forge or redefine their creative sensibilities. For the writer Ryan Knighton, who has addressed losing his sight with humor in live readings for the Moth, blindness is simply another point of view on the world.
The photographer John Dugdale, who lost most of his sight after an HIV-related stroke, recalls learning to focus a camera by touch. He invites viewers to picture things with their eyes closed. (Evans cuts to black while he recites a list.) He speaks of the “aurora borealis” he always sees because his optic nerves are still firing. “It would be interesting” to get his sight back, he says, but he thinks he might throw up, because the world has changed so much since 1994.