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Unique exhibition enables the public to see through the eyes of a blind photographer

A blind veteran from West Yorkshire is launching a photography exhibition entitled ‘52 weeks’ where he shares 52 images taken across the UK over the course of a year.

Brian Goodall, 86 and from Ossett, was a photographer by profession and continued with his passion for the art well into his retirement. At the age of 76, his world crashed down around him.

Brian Goodall photography exhibition

Brian said:

“I woke up one day and I couldn’t see myself in the mirror, I kept rubbing my eyes but I just couldn’t see. I didn’t know what was happening.”

After a referral to a specialist, Brian was diagnosed with Macular Degeneration in both eyes and was registered as severely sight impaired three days later. He lost all central vision, seeing a blur of black shadow immediately in front of him.

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Brian continued:

“I crashed down for about 6 weeks, I had depression and was on the verge of suicide. I thought my world had come to an end. My livelihood and my whole life had been about the visual arts – I thought I’d have to give all that up.”

A friend had told Brian about Blind Veterans UK and he started receiving support from the charity in 2016.

Brian added:

“It gave me a whole new lease of life and at Blind Veterans UK nothing is ever ruled out. It’s just finding a different way of doing things. Just because you’re visually impaired, you’re not disabled. It’s all about your attitude, at Blind Veterans UK they help you to turn disaster into victory.”

Brian joined the 26th Squadron of the RAF in 1948 and served in Suez where he patrolled as a Gunner. He left the service after two years, moving on to study Photography at Leeds College of Arts and graduated with a Distinction.

After starting to receive support from Blind Veterans UK, Brian was invited to take part in a photography course at the charity’s training and rehabilitation centre in Llandudno, North Wales.

He said:

“I was taught to use what vision I had in the best way that I could. I only have peripheral vision left, meaning I hold the camera at a weird angle to the side of my face. It might look funny but it means I can still focus on what I’m photographing!

“I travel all across the UK photographing the beautiful cathedrals and abbeys. There are so many incredible sites and so many wonderful colours out there and I think that we should all go out and see what’s going on in the world around us. All that I do is part of our country’s heritage and that’s what inspired me to do this exhibition.”

Since being a part of Blind Veterans UK Brian has also learned to navigate around Yorkshire, and indeed across the UK, by himself using his long cane. He is a member of the Royal Photographic Society, within the Heritage Photography branch.

The exhibition starts with a photo of the Vicar from Dewsbury Minster and marks the journey of Brian’s life over the course of a year.

Brian explained:

“Just because it starts off in a church, it’s not about religion. It’s about being human. For example, I took a photo of a blind woman, and her husband had just pulled down a rose from a bush so she could smell it. I remember capturing that moment and how extraordinary it was. All of the photos I’ve included in the exhibition tell a story.”

Brian Goodall’s exhibition, 52 weeks, will be unveiled to the public at Dewsbury Minster in Kirklees at 10am on Monday 18 March. The exhibition will run every day from 10am to 2:30pm up until Friday 22 March. On the closing evening of the exhibition, Brian will deliver a talk about his journey through art, sight loss and Blind Veterans UK at 7pm on Friday 22 March. Entry is free for all visitors but any donations to Blind Veterans UK are welcomed.

Blind Veterans UK helps vision-impaired ex-Service men and women of every generation rebuild their lives after sight loss. Since 1915, the charity has provided rehabilitation, training, practical advice and emotional support to tens of thousands of blind veterans.

It currently supports more blind veterans than ever before in the charity’s history, but it knows there are many more who still need its support to rebuild their lives following their sight loss.

Find out more about the charity’s work at blindveterans.org.uk.