Brenden Borrellini was born completely deaf and with limited sight that developed into complete blindness. His disability presented many obstacles for him growing up but with a lot of hard work and help from the Special Education Unit at the Cavendish Road State School in Brisbane, he became the first deaf and blind student to finish his high school education and to attend University.
In 1989 he was nationally recognised and won the young Australian of the Year award for his academic achievements. But Brenden didn't stop there.
It was after moving from Brisbane to Mackay that Brenden met Steve Mayer-Miller, Artistic Director for Crossroad Arts, a local organisation that develops opportunities for people with a disability to access and participate in the arts.
Steve says that the whole idea of photography for somebody who is deaf and blind was completely new to him. He had worked with deaf people before and blind people before but the combination of the disabilities was uncharted territory.
After showing Brenden the buttons on the camera he very quickly took the initiative and started taking pictures.
A blind photographer... How does that work?
Steve wanted to start giving Brenden feedback on the photos he was taking so he worked on a structure where Brenden would receive objective, technical and subjective feedback about the photographs he was taking.
Using a device that converts text to braille, the people working with Brenden are able to give him their objective view by explaining the photograph in detail.
Brenden then receives the technical feedback using photography language like composition, light, shutter effect and depth.
Then the subjective interpretations of the photograph the emotions that each person felt so Brendan would get three different points of view.
What is Brendan seeing?
This question led the group to research devices that would enable a two dimensional photograph to become a three dimensional photograph so that Brendan could also be able to interpret the textures in the photograph.
The aesthetic of photography was never really the goal. It’s more about the experience of taking a photo rather than the resultant photo itself.
The process is helping break Brenden’s feelings of isolation caused by his disability and connecting him with his community.