Buenos Aires, Argentina
By Enrique Marcarian
No disability scares me more than blindness. I depend on my sight more than on my legs. Impaired vision determines the course of the lives of those who suffer it, changing or eliminating their ability to do so much. Nevertheless, there are cases in which a person’s strength is greater than the challenge. Two such people are Leonardo Duarte (Leo) and Eusebia Casimiro (Evi), husband and wife who live by themselves, although they are both blind.
Leo and Evi are both in their mid-fifties, and both lost their eyesight as young adults. Leo lost his as a victim of an attempted robbery, and Evi was left blind during surgery to remove a brain tumor. I was attracted to them by their personalities and attitudes in the face of adversity; they live alone with limited resources but with great will to overcome all that, in a society that does not fully accommodate the visually impaired.
For those unfamiliar with the city of Buenos Aires, traffic is unbearable and walking the streets is often like navigating an obstacle course. Although the couple conserve their visual memory, I imagine that they begin with something like a blank chalkboard in their minds. And although they can’t see, it’s as if they had a light inside them to guide them, through intuition. They can describe with about 80% accuracy different shapes and places. I believe they can sense even more than I can with normal eyesight.
Over the past few months Leo and Evi shared with me parts of their lives. I walked with them, traveled with them on buses and subway trains, and accompanied them during social events and educational classes. On the street I followed them at a discreet distance and watched as some people would move away, while others would ignore them. I was never sure whether it was to allow the couple to continue on their own way unimpeded, or to avoid helping them to cross the street.
I had to decide myself whether to photograph them, or to help them, although I usually chose the latter. When I did, I could feel others staring at me in that strange scene – two people with white canes holding my shoulders with their free hands, as my camera bag hung from one side. We formed a human train of three wagons from which I would separate from time to time to photograph. (I felt that someone should have taken a photo of the three of us.)