Vision Portraits is a documentary project written and directed by Rodney Evans and approaches the unusual and fascinating topic of visually impaired artists working in dance, photography and various other media. The film sets out not only to detail the technicalities of how someone who is blind can create visual art, but to explore the backgrounds, attitudes, and perspectives of the featured artists.
This begins with Evans himself, whose personal segments bookend the film. He provides biographical context about his sight loss and briefly discusses his filmmaking. The film then shifts through interviews with other artists who reveal how their artforms are not just occupations but methods of self-expression, almost compulsively so. Although some might have expected them to abandon their careers (or to never begin them in the first place), each interviewee explains how their work has given them reasons to persist and feel motivated, as well as giving them a mode of providing unique perspectives. Impressively, their disability has only seemed to rejuvenate their work, rather than hinder it.
The film is structurally very chapter-based, moving in blocks from artist to artist, with little crossover or blending between footage. Again, the exception is the closing act, as we return to Evans’s ‘storyline’. His visit to Berlin to receive experimental eye treatment is interesting and invites our sympathy. However, it does feel like its own separate film, detached from the focus on art that the bulk of Vision Portraits holds. There is a clear attempt to tie these two foci together in the final shots, but the documentary still finishes on a somewhat abrupt note.
What we are left with is a feeling of interest and thoughtfulness, but Vision Portraits doesn’t quite explore all of the possibilities behind its salient points. Each artist taking part provides intriguing commentary and Evans has highlighted a subject worthy of investigation, but overall the film seems incomplete.