by Suellen Hozman

Imagine being invited to view a photography exhibit and asked to close your eyes and view the art by touching it. A collection of three-dimensional portraits line the gallery walls as patrons pass their fingertips over the faces and feel changes in texture, identifying smiling mouths, curled hair and thoughtful eyes.

Facial Vision is a collection of 29 two- and three-dimensional black- and-white photographic portraits of people who are visually impaired created by Suellen Hozman. The show is designed to be enjoyed by the sighted, blind and visually impaired. It is the only known show of its kind.

Hozman reproduced the photos using adaptive techniques so they can be seen with the hands of people who are visually impaired. These tactile graphic techniques include different papers, plaster and glass. Educational materials about the reproductive techniques are available for patrons at the show. The show opened at Creole Gallery in Lansing's Old Town in July 2006, and it has had people talking ever since. It is currently on tour in Michigan. "Civil rights are all about equitable opportunity for people who historically are denied access," Hozman says. "I want to change that for people who are blind and visually impaired. The show has three goals: First, to welcome people who are visually impaired to an art show. Second, to educate people that creative talent and technologies are available to both the able-bodied and disabled. Third, to stimulate conversation and encourage people who work with two- and three-dimensional media in engineering, graphic arts and forensics to offer their talents and expertise to people who are blind."

Facial Vision is a collaborative effort with many people and companies including Craig Mitchell Smith, a glass artist, ViewPlus Technologies Inc. and 3Darttopart.com. Hitomi Kuromoto and Jeff Gardner from ViewPlus worked with Hozman to print Tiger Braille portraits with their Emprint and Pro Embosser units. For people very familiar with braille, the Tiger Braille portraits were often the most enjoyable. 3Darttopart.com is a small company in Santa Clara, Calif., that produced rapid prototype printer portraits on a plaster 8" x 10" relief using the Z Corporation printer. These printers accept software files from programs that convert two-dimensional information into three- dimensional files. Currently, this technology is not used often as a resource for the blind and visually impaired. Hozman believes it has great application, especially in the academic environment.

Rod Contreras, operations manager at 3Darttopart.com, accepted Hozman's challenge to make his company's product available to the blind and visually impaired. Contreras created a dedicated web site, Tactileimages.com, to make his services available to the blind and visually impaired. Tactileimages.com requires that you either send a photo or a scanned photo and his company will produce a tactile reproduction for you. Imagine, it could be a guide dog, a grandchild, a friend or any loved one. If you know of a place in your community that might be interested in the show, please contact Hozman at [email protected] or (517) 482-1908.

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