Image Description and the Critical Blind Gaze

Fri. Mar 8, 2024 2:00pm - 3:00pm EST
  • Reserve
  • Details
Event Stats
Event Description

Author and scholar M. Leona Godin uses photographs in the Library’s collections to explore the strange relationship between sighted photographers and blind subjects.

Registration for this event has sold out. A limited number of standby tickets may be available on the day of the event.

The photography division of the The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs houses many photographs of anonymous blind people. They inspired M. Leona Godin to undertake a project that considers image description as both an opportunity for access and an aesthetic practice. What is lost and what is gained in translating a visual object into a verbal one?

Beginning with the iconic photo “Blind Woman” by Paul Strand that was published in Alfred Stieglitz’s Camera Work in 1917, Godin (who is herself blind) will discuss a few key photographs in the collection that illustrate the complicated relationship between the sighted photographer and the blind subject and how image description and the critical blind gaze can bring a vital new perspective to photography.

To join | Please register for an In-Person Ticket. Doors will open around 1:30 PM. For free events, we generally overbook to ensure a full house. Priority will be given to those who have registered in advance, but registration does not guarantee admission. All registered seats are released shortly before start time, and seats may become available at that time. A standby line will form 30 minutes before the program.


Leona is standing next to a large, hyper-realistic painting of her face that has been graffitied by her in ultraviolet paint--—strokes of hair, circles for sunglass lenses, random dots, artist signature in bottom right corner, “There Plant Eyes” on her forehead. She’s wearing black gloves, sheer black turtleneck, round mirror sunglasses, Moses (her white cane) is in her hand, and she’s smiling.Dr. M. Leona Godin is the author of There Plant Eyes: A Personal and Cultural History of Blindness. Her writing has appeared in The New York Times, Playboy, O Magazine, Literary Hub, and others. Her online magazine, Aromatica Poetica, is an arts and culture laboratory for the advancement of smell and taste. As a 2023-24 NYPL Diamonstein-Spielvogel Fellow, she is working on her essay project about photography and image description.


Don't have a New York Public Library card? Get one here!

If you have symptoms consistent with COVID-19 or suspect you have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive, please stay home.


In-Person | You can request a free ASL (American Sign Language) interpretation or CART (Communication Access Real-Time Translation) captioning service by emailing your request at least two weeks in advance of the event: email or use this Gmail template. This venue is fully accessible to wheelchairs.


For questions and inquiries, please email or use this Gmail template.

Please submit press inquiries at least 48 hours before the event: email or use this Gmail template.

The New York Public Library's free services and resources are made possible thanks to the support of the Friends of the Library. Join this group of Library lovers and take advantage of special membership benefits, like invitations to members-only virtual events, discounts at the Library Shop, and more. Join now.

Image credit: Leona Godin with her portrait by Roy Nachum in New York City Hall. Photo by Alabaster Rhumb.

Reserve Tickets
Sorry, this event has already taken place.
Venue Details
Map of Venue Location.
Lenox and Astor Room, Room 216 The New York Public Library, Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, 42nd Street & 5th Avenue
New York, NY 10018
Join the Conversation

Follow the event with #NYPLEvents