At the ongoing Serendipity Arts Festival in Goa, Siddhant Anisha Shah was kept busy by visitors “looking” at a photography exhibition. Young from the National Association for the Blind, Goa, huddled around four monochrome portraits by Chandan Khanna; Shah, a 26-year-old culture and art access consultant, had made tactile reproductions of these photographs, allowing his young audience to know more about these works through touch.
Part of his larger aim to make the visual arts accessible for the disabled, Shah’s ‘Senses at Serendipity’ was his way of getting the visually challenged students to appreciate portraiture. The tactile photograph brings out the nuances and definitions in Khanna’s photographs. “We started by getting them to familiarise their own faces; later, when they touched the faces in the tactile works, they were able to understand better as they already had a mental image of their faces,” says Shah. For the last year and a half, Shah has been working with institutions across the country in an attempt to make art institutions accessible. Earlier this year, Shah worked with the City Palace, Jaipur, to make tactile forms of their miniatures and also with the National Museum, New Delhi. “Making tactile versions of miniatures is simpler than for photographs as they have well-defined lines. With photography, there is so much play of light and shadow, that is hard to convey all the nuances to the visually challenged,” says Shah.