|06-07-2010, 07:19 AM||#1 (permalink)|
Join Date: Apr 2004
Blog Entries: 3
Pictures worth a thousand sounds
A deaf woman creates a book of photographs of sounds - chicagotribune.com
Marsha Engle's world has been going slowly, inexorably silent.
She began losing her hearing as a child. When she was 27, she was diagnosed with cochlear otosclerosis, an overgrowth of cochlear bones that prevents the nerves from responding. She was told she would be completely deaf by the time she was 40.
She wore hearing aids, read lips and developed a successful career in brand management and product development for beauty companies. She married, had a daughter, enjoyed a close circle of women friends and lived happily with her family in Geneva.
But the clock was ticking.
Her hearing deteriorated too much for her to use a telephone. She couldn't do conference calls. She missed comments made during meetings. She quit her job and became a consultant. And though she did well, her world was increasingly muffled.
When she was in her 40s, she went in for a hearing test and looked over to see the audiologist, her doctor for nearly two decades, looking dismayed. She saw him fiddling with the machine's dials, but she knew there was no malfunction. Through the glass she mouthed the word that expressed what she had suspected about her hearing:
In her right ear, it was. In the other, it was heading that way. Engle, now 52, has about 15 percent of her hearing in her left ear. Even with a hearing aid, the most she can hear is vibrations from loud noises like firecrackers. She beat out the time frame of the prediction, but she is almost completely deaf.
As prepared as she was, the final waning of her hearing has been wrenching. At first, she found herself looking around in dismay at people blasting music into their ears with headphones and ear buds. Didn't they understand what they were risking?
The whirr of a fan. The purr of a cat. The strike of a match.
She would never hear those sounds again. But then she had an idea: Maybe she could "hear" by seeing.
She approached William Huber, a photographer who lives in Batavia and with whom she was serving on the board of a historic preservation group.
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"I need somebody to photograph sounds for me — sounds I can't hear anymore," she told him.
Huber was taken aback.
"I thought, 'How do you photograph sound?' " he said. "I've never seen it done."
But he thought of a way — by shooting images of motion. "If you have movement, it feels like there's sound," he said.
He began making pictures. A dog shaking off water. A hand stirring coffee. Laundry flapping in the breeze.
Engle looked at the images, and in the only way left to her, heard. The photos aroused her audible memory as powerfully as Proust's madeleines evoked his childhood. "I can picture the sound," she said.
And she had another thought: This project could do more than help a deaf woman remember sound; it could help hearing people treasure it.
She wrote a book proposal, got an agent and got a contract. Huber is busily taking the last photos, and "100 Sounds To See" is to be published by HCI Books in the fall.
It will contain pictures of the sounds of everyday life, each described in a caption's words:
The crackle of a fire. The turn of a page. The crack of a bat at the ballpark. A rowboat knocking against the dock. The hum of bees in a garden. The hoot of an owl. The crunch of an apple. A kiss on the cheek. The laugh of two sisters.
Some were from Engle's suggestions; others from friends she e-mailed. An elderly man at church asked for the sound of a nut being cracked. Engle's husband, a psychologist, suggested a lone train whistle at night.
Taking the photographs has changed the way Huber listens. He now hears actions he once would have thought were silent. "My son was making toast, and when you pull the knife across the piece of toast, it makes a sound," he said. "My son and I are now very attuned to sound."
That is Engle's hope for her book. It is not the first message she drew from her increasing deafness; when she initially realized that she was going to lose her hearing, she wanted to get on a soapbox and urge people to turn down the volume of music players and televisions to protect theirs.
"In the beginning, I was telling people to listen to silence," she said.
Now she wants them to listen to noise. Not the dramatic sounds of symphonies, but the soft, subtle ones that knit together into the song of life.
Rain on the roof. A knock at the door. The rustle of a ball gown. The trickle of a creek. The cries of seagulls. The crunch of a gravel road. The clucking of chickens. The pop of a cork.
"I loved them all, these sounds," Engle writes in the book's introduction. "Now I ask you to listen to your world. Even just for a few moments, listen to your life."
"Walking with a friend in the dark is better than walking alone in the light."
- Helen Keller
|06-07-2010, 09:17 AM||#2 (permalink)|
Join Date: Nov 2006
Location: Manitoulin Island on Lake Huron in Canada
I guess that it is okay for hearing people who become late deafened or hard of hearing (mild hearing loss) if they remembered what the sounds were like when looking at the pictures.