Featured Artist Tammy Ruggles
Interviewed by Royce Grubic
Interview Date: June, 2015
Photo: Tammy Ruggles
Tammy Ruggles is a legally blind photographer who lives in Kentucky. She is also a writer and artist, and her work has appeared in many literary journals, art magazines, and photography publications, such as Art Times Journal, Writer’s Digest, Photography Monthly, Smart Photography, Cassone, Saint Red, Disney’s Family Fun Magazine, Chicken Soup for the Soul, allRecipes, Spirituality and Health, Graphis, Oitzarisme, LiftBump, FullTrain, GoodNewsNetwork, AOLRise, and others.
Do you think that being a legally blind photographer has given you sensitivities and a perspective that other photographers might lack?
Maybe. Since everything I see is extremely blurry and I often miss what is right in front of me, I don’t worry about pre-planning a shot or setting one up. I either find a subject by walking to within a few inches of it, or randomly snap shots in a general direction, not really seeing things like barns across a field, or birds perched on lines, but finding them later when I transfer my images to my 47-inch computer monitor.
This is where, to me, the most important part of my photography is—in the selection process, when I view and choose on my big screen the images I want to keep or delete.
I’m always looking for the images with high contrast, or will even add more in post-processing. I like a simple composition because I see it better.
I think all photographers have a unique perspective and sensitivity—it’s just that I have my own way of doing things, and those are usually based on what I see, how well I see it, and how well I think the photo meets my idea of art.
I like to think that my art education and personal style, whatever that proves to be, comes through too, not just the visual impairment.
How important are nature and geographic place to your work?
Very important. Since I am unable to hop into a car and drive to find interesting subjects, I have to shoot what’s closest to me, or most convenient when I’m riding with someone, and, thankfully, it’s the rural scenery I like capturing anyway. It works out.
If you weren’t a photographer, what medium do you think would be your artistic outlet?
I’m not sure what the outlet would be, because I never plan on the ones I have, they just sort of develop naturally. But if I were to imagine, it would probably be something like collage or mixed media. I’ve never wanted to do sculpture or pottery, or craft-type things. I’ve done a little scanner art, but it’s sort of like photography, so I’m not sure that answer fits, but I do like it.
How has recent technology (digital photography, computers, social media and the Internet, and so on) affected your work?
I can honestly say that I wouldn’t and couldn’t be a photographer without recent technology. A point-and-shoot camera and my big monitor lets me be a photographer. I do almost everything on the computer, from reading with large fonts on my enlarged monitor, to reading and sending e-mails, to using an online portfolio, and interacting with others about my photos and theirs. Accessibility features, especially magnification and screen readers, are wonderful.
What do you think is the future of photography as an art form?
Photography is always changing, so it will be interesting to see how things develop. Five years from now the jpg may not exist. With the flood of iPhones and other digital cameras, photography will always be with us.
However, and this may be a romantic notion, but I think there will always be a desire for the printed image. Something to hold in your hand, or view on a wall. I may be completely wrong, though, as, on the other hand, I think that online galleries could one day compete with or outnumber physical galleries.
Tell us about “Silhouette Tree,” “Different Perspective,” and “Cold Branches”—the moment, the process, the meaning each photograph has for you.
With “Silhouette Tree”, I could see the dark tree contrasting against the lighter sky, and I was aware of the sun, but I didn’t know the birds were there until later. There was no pre-visualization involved, but I liked it a lot once I saw it on my big screen. I thought the birds added a dark touch to the scene. There were other pictures of trees I took that day that I didn’t keep, so this is a good example of how I choose photos for my collection.
With “Different Perspective”, I actually could see these daisies as I walked along the gravel road, and since daisies are photographed so often, and mostly in color, I wanted a different perspective of them, so I held my camera down beneath them and tilted the lens upward. I hadn’t meant for the sun to be directly in the shot—as it could have damaged the lens—but it happened, and it made for what I think is an interesting arrangement of daisies.
With “Cold Branches”, I was walking through my mother’s snowy yard trying to see something to take a picture of, and all of a sudden I had practically walked into these branches with snow and ice clinging to them, so I just raised my camera up toward them and snapped the picture. Once on my big screen, I could tell that the ice was kind of glittering, so I really liked this one. It was a nice little discovery I wouldn’t have made if I hadn’t been out walking around with my camera. I can’t see these kinds of things from a distance of a few feet away. It’s only when I get up close.
There isn’t any mystique or trick to what I do. I do have some vision, and this, plus my camera and big screen, is what I use. I miss a lot of interesting shots, I’m sure. But I’ve discovered a lot too.