Sight is central to the medium of photography. But what happens when the subjects of photographic portraits cannot look back at the photographer or even see their own image? An in-depth pictorial study of blind schoolchildren in Mexico, Look at me draws attention to (and distinctions between) the activity of sight and the consciousness of form.
Combining aspects of his earlier, acclaimed street work with an innovative approach to portraiture, Chicago-based photographer Jed Fielding has concentrated closely on these children’s features and gestures, probing the enigmatic boundaries between surface and interior, innocence and knowing, beauty and grotesque. Design, composition, and the play of light and shadow are central elements in these photographs, but the images are much more than formal experiments; they confront disability in a way that affirms life. Fielding’s sightless subjects project a vitality that seems to extend beyond the limits of self-consciousness. In collaborative, joyful participation with the children, he has made pictures that reveal essential gestures of absorption and the basic expressions of our creatureliness.
Fielding’s work achieves what only great art, and particularly great portraiture can: it launches and then complicates a process of identification across the barriers that separate us from each other. Look at me contains more than sixty arresting images from which we often want to look away, but into which we are nevertheless drawn by their deep humanity and palpable tenderness. This is a monograph of uncommon significance by an important American photographer.