My name is Cindy Paulding, and these are my first and second guide dogs from Fidelco Guide Dog Foundation, in Bloomfield Connecticut.The one next to me is Noki, who came to me in late October of 2008. The one on the right, with the ball in her mouth, is Oma, who was my first guide dog. Oma is no longer with us but she was a wonderful dog who first showed me the joys and benefits of using a guide dog. If you are interested in learning more about the Fidelco Guide Dog Foundation, please visit their website at http://www.fidelco.org.
I live and work in the Lexington, Kentucky area. I was born in Western Pennsylvania, about three months before I was expected. I weighed in at about a pound and a half. Doctors determined that I was blind when I was about 3 months old, but my mother discovered that I had some vision after I tried to dive out of her arms to reach for a shiny coat button. I was one of the lucky ones, because I had enough vision to see colors and shapes. How much I can actually see varies, and in fact changes, depending upon the amount and type of light, the distance between me and what I am looking at, how much time I have to look at something, how fast I am moving and how tired my eyes are.
I left home at the age of four to attend the Western Pennsylvania School for Blind Children. The first three years of my education were spent learning Braille, and in 3rd grade, I was moved into a Large Print class. After high school I headed out into such adventures as college, work, motherhood and graduate school.
While working on my Masters Degree in Social Work (MSW), I realized that I was having more trouble seeing than usual. I was told that I had cataracts. Over time, my vision became much worse, and I eventually had surgery to have the cataracts removed. I am delighted to say that I can see colors again, as I did when I was younger. The return of color, as a tool to distinguish what I see, has made me more aware of brightness and contrast around me, and I began taking pictures to get a better look at things.
When I am taking pictures, I pretty much guess where to aim the camera. I can see general shapes of things but must wait to see the pictures to know if I got a good angle, or even if I got what I was aiming at. For example, to get a picture of a bee, I aimed the camera at the sound of the bee and took pictures of sections of the flower bush. I hoped that the bee would be in some of the pictures, and to my great delight, it was. You can see the bee in the "animal gallery."
Digital photography has been a wonderful addition to my life since the summer of 2005. Originally, my pictures were simply for my personal enjoyment, but many who saw them felt they were good enough to show. It was through VSA Arts of Kentucky, that I had my first opportunity to publicly share my photography. I have enjoyed two shows through this fine organization. The first show was at the VSA Arts of Kentucky gallery in the Bowling Green office in Bowling Green, Kentucky. The second show was at the VSA Arts of Kentucky gallery at Bandy, Carroll Helliage in Louisville, Kentucky. I have also shown pictures at the Sawtooth Mill Gallery and Gift Shop in Shell Knob, Missouri, and at the public library in Aurora, Missouri. You can go to the VSA Arts website at http://www.vsartsky.org .
I have deep appreciation for all of you who have encouraged and assisted me on this wonderful journey with a camera, and special gratitude to those of you who took the time to look at my pictures and tell me which ones might be clear enough to frame. Not one picture would be here without your willingness to lend a hand (and an eye). I cannot judge the clarity of the pictures I take with reliable accuracy.
It is my hope that many who view my pictures will take the opportunity to reconsider ideas about what people with disabilities might be able to do or be interested in doing. A legally-blind photographer may be unexpected, but I would like to suggest that many people with disabilities participate in and enjoy things that would not typically be associated with them. It would be my pleasure to come to talk to your group about photography as I see it, or other disability-related issues.
When you open the pages to look at the pictures I have taken, I hope you will also open your mind to the possibility that someone with disabilities might be very different from what you think. Also, when you find yourself thinking something about an individual with a disability, perhaps you will remember to leave room for the parts of that person that are not yet in the picture you have of them.
May your mind be as open as the lens of a camera to see
what has previously gone unnoticed.