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World Unseen exhibition debuts in London

Canon has worked with the RNIB to create an exhibition that makes photography more accessible

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Work included ‘Future’, a portrait taken by blind and deaf photographer Ian Treherne

With the World Health Organisation estimating there to be at least 2.2 billion people in the world who have some form of visual impairment, efforts have gradually been made to make locations and events more accessible to those who are blind and partially sighted.

Many print manufacturers, artists, and charitable organisations have worked together to find new innovations in print and displays that help those with visual impairments. 

‘World Unseen’ is a photography exhibition that took place from April 5th to 7th, with a media screening on Thursday 4th, and was organised by Canon Europe and the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB).

The in-person exhibition was fully booked over the course of its three days but can still be experienced online through a range of photographs and projects from well-known and award-winning photographers.

World Unseen took place in Somerset House in London

Photos were brought to life at the in-person event via elevated print created with PRISMAelevate XL a ‘sophisticated yet easy-to-use software application’ that can be used with Canon’s Arizona Series of flatbed printers.

The exhibition offers visual and tactile experiences for blind, partially sighted, and sighted people as photos at the exhibition are printed with elevated effects and braille. Pieces were also displayed behind obscured screens which demonstrate the different types of visual impairments people can experience like glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy.

ProSign Print & Display delivered the relief, braille, and sight condition simulation prints while CBB (Netherlands) created the relief interpretations and accompanying braille for images.

ProSign Print & Sign printed the photos for the event using Canon technology

SignLink was lucky enough to visit the exhibition where we spoke to the likes of Dave Williams, Inclusive Design Ambassador at RNIB, and Karen Trippass, a mother whose 3D baby scan was included as one of the projects at the exhibition.

Trippass explained: “I had my baby scan at 32 weeks pregnant and because you don’t get to hear the heartbeat at that stage you get given the picture at the end, so as someone who is partially sighted it’s not the same experience. 

[L to R] Karen Trippass stood with baby Ruby ahead of her 3D baby scan

“Getting to experience this 3D image (created with tactile print) and know what my baby’s features would be like is life changing as it gives access to photographs in a completely different way. I hope in a few years to come that this option will be made available to blind or partially sighted parents as it’s such a simple technology that could be accessed by everyone.”

Speaking about working with Canon, Williams (RNIB) said: “It’s been incredible to work with Canon who are clearly committed to making photography available and accessible to everyone, and as we all know photographs are about stories and who doesn’t connect with a story?

“Canon is demonstrating a new technology with multiple layers of ink which can provide rich and tactile descriptions which represents a real step forward in terms of the detail and aesthetic experience we’re able to have.”

'Rhino Wars' by Brent Stirton being printed with elevated print at ProSign

Matthew Faulkner, head of marketing for Canon Europe’s wide-format group, commented: “We really hope that this will inspire our customers to think about new applications. We have more than 8,000 Arizonas installed around the world and as print can now enable people to experience imagery in a completely different way I hope this imagery can inspire new types of solutions which print-service-providers can take on.”

The exhibition featured works from photographers and Canon ambassadors from around the world including South African photojournalist Brent Stirton; sports photographer Samo Vidic; fashion photographer Heidi Rondak; and Pulitzer-winning photojournalist Muhammed Muheisen.

Matthew Faulkner from Canon's Wide-Format division stood infront of one of the exhibition's photos

Canon’s PRISMAelevate XL and Arizona printer series have been used before to make art more accessible through projects with art galleries and museums utilising tactile print and braille signage.

Williams says: “We’ve had tactile images for a while but they are usually produced with heat on swell paper and often they’re quite cartoon-like and simplistic so there are limitations to what you can do. But when you come to an exhibition you want more than just information, it’s not just about function but having an aesthetic experience which allows you to connect with something on an emotional level.”

Dave Williams from the RNIB at World Unseen

Speaking about the impact of the exhibition on LinkedIn, Sarah Vloothuis, EMEA external communications senior manager at Canon, said: “The reactions we’ve had so far are heart-warming and remind me how much our technology can enable change and impact people’s lives.”

Speaking to visitors of the exhibition it was clear how much emotion the images elicited as the technology could lead to a whole new group of print users as suddenly wedding photos or family pictures could be experienced by blind or partially sighted people. 

A hand feels a photo printed with tactile print at World Unseen

Speaking to accessibility consultant and content creator Sassy Wyatt it became apparent that brands and businesses can be doing more to offer braille and tactile print in products we take for granted such as business cards and food packaging.

“Since losing my sight in September 2013, I've never seen photography come to life like this before, it was mesmerising, enchanting, and spectacular,” said Wyatt in a post on LinkedIn, adding: “Having the opportunity to meet photographers like Samo Vidic and hear the stories behind the images and actually SEE the art is something 
I will never forget.”

If you’d like to share news or opinions with us feel free to email at news@signlink.co.uk or join in with the conversation on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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