They say a picture is worth a 1000 words. But, what if you can not see the picture? For the blind and low visioned person getting the 1000 words off the picture becomes the challenge. The two most common ways a blind person can get a description. The first is through a third party describing the item or by touching. When it comes to sex the touching part could get a blind man or woman into some trouble. Happily there is a new way for the blind to explore sexuality via the use of tactile touch. I found an interesting article on a book called Tactile Mind, authored by Lisa Murphy. In lay terms the book has raised pictures on the page so that blind and low visioned person can feel the image. This is not pornography by any stretch but, it is adult content none the less. Lisa Murphy's book has gone viral and I am very happy that I was able to get a chance to speak with her via email for Candid Conversations. Ms. Murphy welcome.
Lisa Murphy: Thank you for inviting me to be a part of your blog.
Cliff T.: As I mentioned in the opening paragraph your book has just exploded on to the scene garnering massive attention, did you expect such a huge response?
Lisa Murphy: No, the past few weeks have been a pretty crazy ride. I actually finished the book 2 years ago, it had been living in Rubbermaid containers and I had carried it to art fairs, donated a few to various causes, and had a gallery show with it about a year ago. In the last 2 years, I added a couple more pictures to it, and had upgraded the photographic paper used throughout the book. Sarah Barmak @ the Toronto Star newspaper did an article on it that came out on a Sunday a couple of weeks ago, and on Monday - there was chaos - my phone was ringing off the hook with media interviews from across the world, and my in-box was constantly pinging with the arrival of new media requests. I was kind of shocked to say the least.
Cliff T.: What inspired you to create Tactile Mind?
Lisa Murphy: It was the challenge. I had been taking artistic pictures of nudes for years. I had received a certificate in Tactile Graphics from the CNIB, and was volunteering there creating animals for children's educational books. Basically I thought "why not?" So I started researching and pricing machinery and materials, and experimented with a few ways of presenting my work. My friends sighted, blind, and vision impaired all thought it was a great wacky idea, and encouraged me. During the 2 years it took me to make this book. I occasionally would look around on the Internet, and couldn't find anything vaguely similar to what I was doing. But, that wasn't my primary reason for the project; I just wanted to make a cool book of my nude photographs that blind and vision impaired people could read. And, just to clarify, I have not been a volunteer at the CNIB for years now.
Cliff T.: In the creative stages did you seek out blind and vision impaired people to get an idea of what they wanted in such a book?
Lisa Murphy: No, this book was a personal art project. I had (blind) proofreaders that I would give each image to, to make sure there were no errors, and that my photograph was reflected accurately. Each image took me about 50 hours to create from conception, to photograph, to sculpting, to thermoforming, to proofreading... back to sculpting, proofreading etc. Vision impaired and blind people who read Braille and tactile diagrams have very sensitive fingertips. How something looks, and how it translates into touch, can be two totally different things. I just put in a collection of my photographs, and a collection of tactile diagrams depicting my photographs. I tried to give a good variety of everything so both women and men could enjoy this work.
Cliff T.: Can you describe what you mean when you say the book is half art object, half artisanal?
Lisa Murphy: I didn't say that. I don't even know what that means in relation to this work. I think I have been misquoted a couple hundred thousand times - no joke.
tactile mind is a book of nude photographs for the blind and vision impaired. It is a cool book of my photographs for non-sighted readers. It's all handmade, each page is hand pressed and I make them from home. It has been called "erotic", "sensual", "fetish oriented" and "pornographic. People everywhere have an opinion on this work. I think its so great there is international dialogue surrounding it. Very surreal; it brings to light that there is a need for more picture/literature books for the blind/vision impaired.
Cliff T.: Why do you think this is the case that there are only a few books like this around?
Lisa Murphy: There are themoform books around, but throughout the world, (to my knowledge most) institutions that have produced them in the past, have stopped producing them using this method because it is very time-consuming and expensive. It's really too bad because many people (myself included) believe this method provides more detail and information to the blind/vision impaired reader, than the now faster, cheaper, technologically advanced methods for creating materials.
Cliff T.: When people who are not disabled think of those who are they have the impression burned in the mind that people with disabilities do not want or seek out sex, Is Tactile Mind meant to dispel such myths as well as allow blind people to explore their sexuality?
Lisa Murphy: Unfortunately there are generalizations and stereotypes throughout the world that people with any kind of disability are not sexual beings. We are all human. We are all different; different things turn us on, different things turn us off, regardless of our abilities or disabilities.
Cliff T.: Could this book be used as a teaching guide on sex?
Lisa Murphy: People aren't having sex in my book; I don't know if it would be a good educational tool used for that purpose.
Cliff T.: Well from what I can see or read, this book has really grabbed some international attention and has gotten a lot of people talking about the subject of disabilities and sex. I want to thank you again for doing a Candid Conversation. And, I hope your book does well.
Lisa Murphy: Thank you very much for this interview.
Cliff T.: Lisa Murphy is the creator of Tactile Mind a book with raised photographs of nudes for the blind and vision impaired. Ms. Murphy is a photographer with a certificate in Tactile Graphics from the Canadian National Institute for the Blind.
The Toronto Star featured Tactile Mind in a recent article. And, Lisa Murphy does have a blog with more on the book. The blog is called Tactile Mind, it's web address is http://www.tactilemindbook.com and readers should be aware that the material on the blog is of an adult nature and explores various sexual themes, discretion is advised.