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Tina’s art: “How I see the world”

Tina, an adult with CVI, shares her art and photography to show how she sees the world

Window reflection of a woman using a camera

Tina is an artist and photographer, and an adult with CVI and severe learning disabilities. She only learned of her CVI when she was 19 years old. This was after she saw Dr. Nicole Ross at the New England Eye Low Vision Clinic at Perkins. Tina currently attends the Massachusetts College of Art and Design and uses her art to reveal what it’s like to be on the blindness spectrum and to show how she sees the world.

How Tina describes her CVI

I live with silent blindness, CVI. I got diagnosed with CVI at 19. Now I understand why I can’t see the world around me.”

“I have facial blindness, depth perception issues, spatial blindness, and nighttime blindness. I don’t know where I am going a lot of the time.”

“I always had trouble focusing on the words on the page of a book.”

“Before being diagnosed with CVI, optometrists blamed my dyslexia for blurring out the words on the page or when I was writing essays for school. But Dr. Ross at the Perkins low vision clinic told my mom and me about CVI and it finally made sense why this was happening.”

“Especially during this pandemic, where there are so many visual cues, I have trouble seeing where six feet part is and I can’t recognize people that I know with masks on.”

CVI is unpredictable. Some days are clearer than others. Today I woke up and my vision is off. My nystagmus likes to work with my CVI to make seeing sometimes impossible.

Tina, adult with CVI

This is how my brain sees

“I love drawing abstract with bold and loud colors.”

Tina’s art reflects how she sees the world. When asked why she likes to draw abstracts with bold colors, she responded, “This is how my brain sees, I can’t see depth. As an artist, I will never be able to draw realism because of my visual impairment.”

“I see the world in color. CVI has helped me realize color is a key part of my art-making. It helps me visualize what I am drawing or painting. Without color, it’s hard for my brain to comprehend what I am seeing and making.”

Abstract illustration of a bowling alley
Abstract illustration of a bowling alley with bright orange and blue walls, rainbow sign, and brick facade.
Colored drawing looking into a college of art building
Colored drawing looking into the Design and Media Center at Massachusetts College of Art and Design.

“Photography helps me see the world around me.”

Tina’s final project for digital photography: “My idea for the final project is to explore the concept of showing how I see the world. Since I’m a photographer who is visually impaired, I haven’t seen any examples through photography explaining what someone might see with my vision impairments: CVI and nystagmus. I have seen examples of someone’s vision with cataracts or glaucoma, but I have never seen it for CVI and nystagmus. So, this is my chance to give examples through photography of what a person might see with CVI and nystagmus.”

Each photo in this collection includes three frames of an outdoor scene, but the images in each frame don’t line up with each other. They create a disjointed picture of the scene. Some frames are blurry. The lighting may be different in each frame. The viewer may feel disoriented and as if parts of the scene are missing. 

Concrete ramp with railings with a row of three-story houses.
Concrete ramp with railings with a row of three-story houses. The frame on the left shows a close-up of a blurry railing and tree without leaves. The frame in the center includes the ramp. The frame on the right shows the houses and part of the railing that doesn’t match up with the center picture of the railing and ramp.
Concrete bridge over a bike path.
A concrete bridge over a bike path. The frame on the left shows the bridge. The frame in the center includes a portion of the bridge that looks higher than the bridge in the frame on the left. The frame on the right shows the bridge in dark lighting.
Bike path with trees and houses around.
Bike path with trees and houses around. The frame on the left is a blurry image of the yellow-leaved trees. The frame in the center shows the bike straight ahead, but it’s dark, with a few shadows of people ahead. The frame on the right is blurry and dark with houses at a distance.
Sidewalk and street at dusk.
Sidewalk and street at dusk. The frame on the left is a blurry, dark image of trees and a fence. The frame in the center is dark with a blurry white signpost. The frame on the right is blurry and dark with houses.
Sidewalk and street with an approaching city bus.
Sidewalk and street with an approaching city bus. The frame on the left is a sidewalk with a blurry bus approaching—all at a distorted angle. The frame in the center is a dark and blurry reflection of Tina in a store window. The frame on the right is blurry with a sidewalk, trees, and a person with a red backpack walking ahead.
Walking over a street bridge.
Walking over a street bridge. The frame on the left shows a blurry portion of the bridge and a protective fence. The frame in the center is another blurry portion of the bridge that is not aligned with the frame on the right. The frame on the right is a blurry view of the sidewalk on the bridge with two people ahead. All frames have muted and dim lighting.
City street with a large yellow and brick building.
City street with a large yellow and brick building. The frame on the left shows a blurry crosswalk with the don’t walk symbol lit up at a distance. The frame in the center shows a light pole close up with the big yellow building at an angle in the distance. The frame on the right shows a close-up of a red railing and portions of buildings and houses. All frames have dark and muted lighting.
Bike path with railings next to a parking garage at dusk.
Bike path next to a parking garage at dusk. The frame on the left shows a portion of the crosswalk with the tops of trees sunlit at a distance. The frame in the center is a very blurry view of the bike path with two people walking ahead. The frame on the right shows a close-up of the railing with the parking garage across the street.

Explore more art from individuals with CVI. BBC news highlighted an art exhibition featuring photography and artwork by individuals with CVI: The visually-impaired artists sharing their world

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