Blind Beauty

A sensorial reflection on what beauty feels like for visually impaired young people

Director Gillian Zinser explores how visually impaired children and young adults experience beauty in a world that prioritizes hypervisual media. Created in close collaboration with students from The New York Institute of Specialized Education (NYISE) and Lavelle School for the Blind, Blind Beauty is an impressionistic short film based on Zinser’s conversations with them.

“I’m fascinated by how our addiction to technology is distorting our perception of beauty and how we learn to define and experience it,” says Zinser, who cites her fraught relationship with image-based social media as a stimulus for this film. “I want audiences to consider what beauty looks like when it is not dictated by celebrities or Facetune, and instead based on emotions, sound, scent, and touch.»

Blind Beauty is a collage of the students’ responses to questions about body image and identity. The film leans on specially-crafted sound design—pitch shifting, echoes, and reverb—as well as video art to creatively relay their answers.

«As a sighted person, I am not trying to pretend I can represent the students’ understanding of beauty through visual language,» Zinser explains. «After digesting their perspectives and experiences, I sat with their voices and tried to sculpt an homage of sorts inspired by how they feel their way through this world.»

For the blind and partially-sighted individuals in this film, beauty does not rely on an approximation to a universal standard. It’s a package deal that incorporates self-love, kindness, and honesty, alongside a multitude of intangible factors. Regardless of where a person is placed on the spectrum of sight loss, we are all affected by conventional beauty norms. What this film poses is how internal beliefs shape how much importance we give it.

“Visual culture can discourage reflection and deeper awareness,” says the director. “This film takes a sensorial, dream-like plunge into our conversations, offering a confrontation to our perceptions and addictions.” Blind Beauty is not just a conversation starter but a reminder of the age-old adage, as repeated by the students of NYISE and Lavelle, that true beauty comes from the inside.

July 7, 2021

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