Blind Blake: A photographic journey with Blake Lindsay

I met Blake Lindsay in 2016 while working on my first blindness photo series. I worked with Envision, formerly Dallas Light House for the Blind, to document the stories of 15 people with various visual impairments. Blake was the first company employee I met who took me on his journey as a blind person, or rather a “disabled” person as he likes to describe himself.

After documenting the daily challenges and testimonies of blind and visually impaired employees I encountered through The Lighthouse, I have kept in touch with Blake over the years. We had made a connection and I found her story, in particular, inspiring and interesting. So much so that in 2021 we decided to work together on another project – this time dedicated to her story and focusing on her ability to inspire others through her positive attitude and outlook on life and her journey. towards independence.

As a tribute to the person who introduced me to the world without sight, this project is a personal endeavor and aims to give Blake’s story the attention it deserves. As he likes to say and a statement that describes the intent of this project, “You can lose your sight, but you don’t have to lose your sight.” Welcome to the world of this determined person who is passionate about living life to its fullest.

At nine months old, Blake was diagnosed with a rare cancer called retinoblastoma. He underwent life-saving surgery, but doctors were unable to save his sight. Blake says he’s been blind since he can remember. Now 57, he has absolutely no visual memories, but nonetheless, he has filled his life with extraordinary experiences and positivity.

In 2011, Blake wrote and published a book titled blind for a purposein which he mentions one of his father’s favorite quotes, “I can” is an attitude, “I will” is an intention, “I am” is taking action, and “I’m glad I did” is almost always the result.” This statement is the epitome of the kind of person Blake is and the way he has lived his life. He is a man of action, always working to spread kindness and positivity all improving their level of independence.

Blake’s parents had a very positive impact on him and he thanks them for helping him get to where he is today. They encouraged him and did not allow him to make excuses unless he had a legitimate reason why he was unable to complete a particular task. “Mom and dad were both reasonable with it, but they wanted me to do my best,” he says.

Fitness is a big part of Blake’s path to independence. In college, he became a member of the wrestling team and played many different sports, including swimming, jogging, bowling, and bicycling. Blake’s father began his educational career as a coach, so Blake followed his father’s lead and also had a brother in the military, another working as a basketball coach and athletic director.

Blake has always been surrounded by great physical and mental support. Throughout his life, he continued to practice regular physical activity but also experimented with more daring sports. With the help of a trainer, he rode his first horse at age 8 and at 18 he bought his own small motorbike. His thirst for adventure even led him to jump out of a plane at the age of 46.

“It was about having faith and pleasure, all rolled into one. I believed the parachute would open when needed and had complete confidence in my skydiving instructor. We even made an illuminating remembrance audio-video production, which will always encourage people to dive in and face those fears, goals and challenges that inevitably arise in life.

His routine is no different from the routine of a sighted person – he trains early in the morning and after taking a shower, Blake spends time brushing his hair in front of the mirror.

“I’m totally blind but I might as well look in the mirror when I’m doing all this. I touch my hair and make it all smooth, trying to feel with my hands to look decent for another day.
Perhaps the most unique aspect of her morning process is cleaning her eyes. Blake has big blue eyes that really grab attention. Although they are prosthetics, the color is the same as his natural eyes when he was a baby. Prosthetic eyes must be well maintained as they have a limited lifespan, usually around 20 years. Blake’s eyes are 15 so every once in a while he has to take them out, clean them, wipe them and make sure there’s nothing on them. And he does it on his own, like most of his daily personal and professional tasks.

For Blake, independence means maintaining a full-time job, but also doing whatever he can without help. For him, asking for help is not a bad thing, but he tries to do everything he can on his own because it makes him more independent.

When Blake is asked about his heroes, Louis Braille comes first “I often wonder how I could survive in the world without knowing this remarkable system of communication. Braille has greatly contributed to my independence,” he said.

Blake was just 13 when he took his first job at his school’s switchboard answering incoming calls and transferring callers where they needed them. Blake says “It was great to memorize 70 triple digit extensions and I really had a blast getting my first paycheck which I earned through my own work.”

When he was a child, people noticed his ability to memorize things – he could remember the date and time, the people he met and what they said. His cousin Joy called him “Elephant Memory” and started buying him elephants when he was 7 years old.

Blake’s memory is an incredible tool that he uses to help him develop new skills to strengthen his independence, especially when it comes to technology and his job. He likes to tell people, “If you must be blind, now is the best time”, referring to the advancement in technology and the increase in resources to help the visually impaired.

Blake has worked as an Outreach and Communications Manager at Envision for 12 years now. When we first met, he invited me to his home for a photo shoot that I will always remember. Along the way, I was amazed that he could tell me the model of my rental car. “Is that a Ford Focus you’re driving?” He asked. How could he know? He then explained to me that he could feel the shape of the passenger seat and the door handle, which led him to this conclusion!

When we got to his condo, Blake gave me a quick ride and took me to his pool, where he likes to exercise. Her big blue eyes matched the blue water almost perfectly, leading into our first conversation about colors.

Blake told me, “I can’t tell you what the color blue looks like. For me, it’s just a concept that I imagine. Something I envision to be a light positive color, like on a clear day with a blue sky. I also like to imagine the blue ocean. But even the sea or the sky, I know that if I had my sight back today, they would probably be different from my imagination, but it’s always fun to imagine colors. For me, it’s more about feeling than watching.

In his book, he explains, “I like to hear what people and things look like through descriptions. I am delighted when someone takes their time and gives their opinion to tell me what they see. For example, a beautiful or interesting day, evening or night sky, or their creative color descriptions. It certainly opens my imagination.

His wife Jennifer, to whom he has now been married for about 19 years, plays a major role in this part of his life. She shares what she sees in their everyday world. She not only has a wonderful gift for describing landscapes, but she also enjoys helping Blake maximize the experiences they have together. At the grocery store, she directs and explains everything in detail from which region they are, what fruits or vegetables are available and what they look like. Jennifer colorfully depicts their surroundings to help Blake better understand the situation and connect what he feels and smells to a visual idea.

Besides serving other blind people in his full-time job at Envision, Blake is truly passionate about radio and does professional voice-overs. At home, he set up his own professional radio recording studio in the guest bedroom. Born with a golden voice that naturally commands attention, Blake enjoyed a successful career in broadcasting as Blazin’ Blake. As a side job, Blake regularly has clients hire her to do anything from voicemail on hold to radio and TV commercials to storytelling and more.

“When I was younger, I started working with K-98 and received positive press on a television news segment, which reduced the apprehension of thousands of people by helping them understand that radio was an excellent and doable career for blind communicators,” he mentioned.

Blake has achieved wonderful things in his life without the benefit of vision, proving that success is achievable even in the face of challenges that some would say are insurmountable. He is on a mission to inspire people to be brave and turn their challenges and struggles into purpose and motivation. He naturally encourages others, sighted or not, with his positive outlook on life, his shared heart and his loving personality.

In his very iconic voice, Blake said, “I have rarely felt sorry for myself. I am grateful that my sight was all that was taken and my life was spared. It’s good to be alive! My life of total blindness constantly provides me with opportunities to challenge and inspire people of all ages to set meaningful goals and follow a plan of action.

About the Author: Jérôme Poulalier is a 34-year-old French photographer based in Lyon and working all over the world. The opinions expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author. You can find more of Poulalier’s work on his website. This article was also published here.

Michael E. Marquez