Bruce Hall, photo © Christopher Voelker. www.voelkerstudio.com
Bruce Hall is a legally blind photographer, underwater photographer, and disability advocate. Hall lives in Santa Ana, California and exhibits his photography internationally. Bruce and writer and wife, Valerie Hall, have published a book, Immersed: Our Experience with Autism, examining their twin sons’ severe autism. The book captures their experiences through words and images.
Hall’s work has been published in numerous textbooks, magazines including Discover Diving, Natures Best Photography, Spirit Magazine, Men’s Journal, and National Geographic, as well as shown in art exhibitions internationally including: the National Museum of Natural History at the Smithsonian; UCR/California Museum of Photography, Riverside, California; Centro de la Imagen, Mexico City; The Kennedy Center, Washington D.C.; Photo San Francisco; Photo L.A.; Flacon Arts Complex, Moscow, Russia; Galeria De Arte, Universidad Iberoamericana, Puebla, Mexico; Center for Visual Art, Denver, Colorado; The Canadian Museum for Human Rights, Sight Unseen, and Huntington Museum of Art, Huntington, W.VA.
In 2010, The Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division purchased a portfolio of photographs from Hall’s Autism in Reflection series for their permanent collection.
Bruce was featured in a short documentary for HBO, Dark Light: The Art of Blind Photographers 2010, produced by Corinne Marrinan and directed by sports photography legend Neil Leifer.
Hall is featured in the full length documentary film, Shot in the Dark by German filmmaker Frank Amann. 2017
In 2018, Bruce Hall was featured in the the Apple “Behind the Mac” international Advertising campaign.
Today, Hall is focused on his underwater photography at Catalina Island, and other projects.
Bruce Hall's night sky was devoid of stars, a vast sheet of darkness. Hall was born with a word salad of eye conditions: nystagmus, myopia, astigmatism, amblyopia, macular degeneration and exotropia. "I grew up hearing about stars, but I'd never seen them. When I was nine or ten, a neighbor kid down the street let me look through his telescope. We pointed it at the North Star. It was like an opening into another world." Hall saw not just stars, but possibilities. The childhood glimpse became a turning point, directing Hall into a lifelong engagement with seeing devices: cameras, lenses, magnifiers, telescopes, computer screens.
Since then, Bruce Hall has constructed his world from photographs. When he looks into your eyes, it'll be on his forty-inch Sony high definition monitor. Most photographers see in order to photograph. Bruce Hall photographs in order to see.
Hall is one of four artists in the exhibition who, while legally blind, retain some limited, highly attenuated sight. "I think all photographers take pictures in order to see, but for me it's a necessity. I can't see without optical devices, cameras. Therefore, it's become an obsession. It's beyond being in love with cameras; I need cameras." Susan Sontag called photographs objects "that make up, and thicken, the environment we recognize as modern." By this logic, Hall leads a hypermodern life, employing an ever-present camera to build his visual world one photograph at a time.
Hall calls his device-enabled interface with the world "intensified seeing." The devices are extensions, amplifications of his body. "Without cameras, my life would be bleak. With cameras, I can see." The result is a strange form of double vision. "I always see things twice. First, I see an impression. I take what I think I see, later I can see what I saw. I have certain aims, guesses, impressions, but the photographs are always a surprise."
by Douglas McCulloh, Curator, sight unseen, International Photography by Blind Artists. UCR California Museum of Photography. www.cmp.ucr.edu/exhibitions/sightunseen/
"...The proliferation of images and the way this tends to make all images “commonplace” drives many photographers to devise increasingly complex ways of creating photographs and to explore new approaches to expressing ideas. In much the same way as oil painters, when they had attained the skills and materials to produce nearly perfect realism and decided to turn their focus from absolute control to creative chaos, photographers now apply themselves to capturing alternate realities—chaotic and distorted images of the world—as it appears to them.
For Bruce, the world has always appeared chaotic. It is always moving, always blurred. With a fraction of normal eyesight, and a range of focus that reaches only a few inches beyond his nose, Bruce has often used photography as a means of simply being able to see things in the world, to hold them still and close, long enough to get a sense of what others see, effortlessly, in real time. Ironically, when he enters the underwater world, an environment where everything moves ceaselessly, Bruce feels calmest and most content.
Scuba diving in the ocean, Bruce moves in close to a subject, floods it with light from strobes, and all the dull blue-gray tones turn to brilliant color. Blurry lumps of rock reveal tiny animals with intricate features and endless variations of patterns and textures. With his photos on a computer screen, the tables are turned…Bruce can see what others usually don’t. He spends hours with his photos, poring over each square inch, focusing on every detail, as though making up for all the hours he must spend in a world that is always out of focus..." Valerie Hall, Immersed: Our Experience with Autism.
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