Meet Pranav Lal, a Delhi based cybersecurity expert who likes programming, reading books, travel and photography. He was also born blind. Yet, his visual impairment hasn't stopped Lal from pursuing his passion for photography, pushing his sensory and creative boundaries in the process.
Lal can distinguish between light and darkness, and he relies on a technology called vOICe that works like an artificial eye to help visually impaired people with navigation. Lal uses vOICe to help him take photos. The vOICe software converts images taken by a camera into sounds by panning them from left to right, and maps the elevation of an object through the pitch and its brightness through loudness. Lal listens to these sounds through his headphones, and then uses a second camera to click photos.
"The beauty of the technology is that you can remotely sense shapes and compose your own shots," he told HuffPost India. "Otherwise, say, if I want to photograph a tree, but it doesn't make a sound, I won't get that perspective. This allows me to get the foreground and background."
Lal uses vOICe for everything from navigation to designing web pages. He took up photography in 2001, when he came across the Seeing with Sound initiative, which works on vOICe. He taught himself how to use the new technology remotely, by communicating with other international users on an online mailing group.
He has been honing his skills over the last 15 years, and says he especially enjoys taking pictures while travelling and on festivals such as Diwali. Since vOICe cannot recognise facial features yet, Lal focuses on landscapes, especially nature, buildings, and machinery.
"I have been born with this. I have adapted extremely well. I had an augmented sense and I wanted to showcase it visually," Lal explained. "How do I show you what I see? Through photography. This technology gives me the ability to see."
A new video produced by the online portal 101 India narrates Lal's inspiring story and explains the technology he uses. "Blindness is a state of mind more than a sensory impairment," he says in the video. "People who have the biological ability of sight but still don't see could still be called blind."
You can see some of Lal's photographs here.