Blind photographer Tara Miller wins national photo award

Nadine Bells

Tara Miller, 39, may be legally blind, but she takes amazing photos.

And now her work is being recognized nationally. The Canadian National Institute for the Blind (CNIB) awarded her the grand prize in its Eye Remember national photography competition.

The contest was open to all photographers across the country, not just the visually impaired. Miller was the only blind photographer on the shortlist, and her condition was not known to judges.

After being selected by a panel of celebrity judges, the top five photos were voted on by the public.

"It feels wonderful and it's unbelievable for me," Miller told the Winnipeg Sun. "It's a great feeling. I entered the contest because it was about glaucoma awareness and I've had it for 20 years."

Miller achieves the seemingly impossible feat of taking photos while blind by taking advantage of her other senses.

She uses her unusually good hearing to help her shoot wildlife and relies on brightness and shadow to help her photograph outdoors. She says her memory of what things look like (Miller wasn't born blind) also helps her take photo and she has a small spot on her left eye where she can still see clearly, helping her when taking close-ups.

Besides her razor sharp senses, Miller gets helps from her family. Her 12-year-old son was with her when she took the award-winning shot.

"I have learned to anticipate. Hopefully, when I come home and look at my images as any other photographer does, we all hope we have captured the moment," said Miller to the Winnipeg Free Press.

Miller works with her husband as a commercial photographer in Winnipeg and volunteers with the CNIB. She has less than 10 per cent of her eyesight. Born with congenital rubella syndrome, which leads to cataracts, by 16 Miller had developed glaucoma and by 33 she was legally blind.

Her winning photo was taken last summer near Starbuck, Manitoba. Titled "Fortuitous Twilight," it captured a lighting storm over a sunflower field at sunset.

The same photo won best in show and best colour print at the 2011 Red River Exhibition Photography Salon.

"Yes, I'm legally blind but I want to take that extra step and be known as that legally blind commercial photographer," Miller told the Winnipeg Free Press. "I like the idea of recognition."

Her contest submission included encouragement to others in similar situations.

"I want to let others know not give up what you are passionate about. I will never forget how my 12-year-old son was there to help me capture this image. We share the excitement of finding a great location and share family time together!"

(Photo credit: Tara Miller)