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Barbara Blackman reveals how blindness is simply a different way of seeing

Thu, 13 Jul 2017, 02:24 PM

Sasha Grishin, The Sydney Morning Herald, 10 July 2017
"Blindness is not a negative," Barbara Blackman says. "It is a different way of seeing." 
The 88-year-old grand dame of Australian art, literature and music takes delight in challenging conventional wisdom. The chapters of her life would fill several lifetimes – from embracing literature and music as a young girl in Brisbane, to falling in love in Sydney with her first husband, celebrated painter Charles Blackman, the years in a rural retreat with her second husband, French philosopher Marcel Veldhoven, and her own substantial output as a writer, poet and essayist. 
"One life has many autobiographies," she says. "It depends on where you place a shaft of memory."
She's seated in her favourite chair in the living room of her home in Canberra, which she shares with a Jack Russell called "Piece of string" (the dog also answers to "Princess"). It's where she sat during the shooting of the new film Seeing From Within: The Life of Barbara Blackman, while recalling and retelling the many stories of her singular life. 
"I have not lived a conventional life," she says in the documentary. "I could not have lived a conventional life, as I could not have picked up the rules."
The film opens with a blank screen, with Blackman saying: "I wasn't born with a silver spoon in my mouth but with something much better – a question mark." The footage was based on a series of scripts produced by Blackman. Her first-person narrative is punctuated with archival footage and illustrated with animated characters.
The film's title alludes to her diagnosis with childhood optic atrophy, which rendered her legally blind by the age of 21. "Blindness is not living in a world of total darkness – my world is blue, pink and grey," she says. "It is better to see blindness as an eccentricity – seeing is a centricity and blindness is an eccentricity."
Read: the full article at The Sydney Morning Herald


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