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‘Blind Beauty’
Courtesy of Gillian Zinser

How do visually-impaired people see beauty?


TextFelicity Martin

Blind Beauty is a film exploring how young people perceive themselves in a world where image-based perfection doesn’t take centre stage

In a world of body shape-altering apps and skin-blurring filters, it can be hard to remind ourselves that real beauty comes from within. Blind Beauty, a moving new film by director Gillian Zinser, focuses on young people living with sight impairment and how they perceive beauty, identity, and body image.

Presented by Nowness, the sensory collage of interviews with children and young adults on the sight loss spectrum emphasises how our internal beliefs are infinitely more important than the images we’re presented with. “To me, beauty means being able to express myself,” one of the film’s blind or partially-sighted voices explains, with another stating that it’s “the connections that we make with others”.

Commissioned by Art Beyond Sight and made in partnership with the Lavelle School for the Blind and The New York Institute of Specialized Education (NYISE), the film positions sight as something limiting – how, in a society obsessed with digital image, we’re constantly reaching for unattainable levels of perfection. “Even if I had people telling me I was the most beautiful girl in the world, I feel like if I could see myself, I wouldn’t think that,” suggests one young person.

The idea came from Zinser’s fractured relationship with social media and how damagingly image-based it can be today. “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 the director. “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.”

“As a sighted person, I am not trying to pretend I can represent the students’ understanding of beauty through visual language,” Zinser continues. “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.”

Watch Blind Beauty below.

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