Denver photographer Robert Weinberg has a surprising characteristic for someone who shoots pictures for a living.
He’s been legally blind since the 1990s.
Weinberg uses the latest technology to make the most of the little vision he has remaining to take photos, to get around on his own and to help other people learn how to live with blindness.
“The World in Denver: The Photography of Robert Weinberg” exhibit opened Jan. 20 and will be on display for one year in the second-floor mezzanine at History Colorado. It features eight photos from his decades of photography.
“It’s kind of unbelievable,” Weinberg said. “Not only that it’s showing my work, but for a whole year.”
In a History Colorado first, each exhibit photo will be accompanied by a sign written in Braille to better serve those who are sight-impaired.
“History Colorado means a great deal,” Weinberg said. “It’s one thing to archive your work and know it has a home. But showing the works you’ve done in the past, it gives (validation) to my work.”
But Weinberg, 75, has been through tough times as the world showed less and less of itself as the blindness advanced.
“I went through hell,” he said. “I was clinically depressed. It was years before I could go through all the training (to regain some sight). I did take a long time to learn a lot of things that help me.”
And help is available out there.
A text-reading software named JAWS (Job Access With Speech) helped Weinberg become a touch typist, easing the writing process.
“Now I can write all sorts of stuff, use email and read websites,” he said. “It’s the best and most expensive text-reading software. When I first started losing my sight, a doctor said what I had was the best thing I could have had when you’re losing your sight.”
Closed-circuit TV has been another helpful tool. Its camera enlarges things, making them easier to see and read.
“It also has OCR — Optical Character Recognition — that can scan a printed-out page and read it to you,” Weinberg said.
Weinberg is a fan of the Colorado Talking Books Library at 180 Sheridan Blvd. in Denver’s Barnum West neighborhood. He downloads books to a flash drive and listens to the narrative.
“Which is wonderful,” he said.
Weinberg was drawn to photography in 1965 when he took his first photo course at George Washington High School, using a pinhole camera.
“You’d work with printed-out paper, make an image work in the dark, fix it and then you’d have a print without having had a negative,” he said.
He’s still taking photos — and gave himself an assignment to shoot a large project of workers replacing all the elevators in a residential building.
“So I documented all the cranes that were there,” Weinberg said.
He gave prints of his work to some of the workers.
Jeremy Morton, public engagement manager at History Colorado, praised Weinberg’s innate photography skills.
“He has this ability to take close-up portraits of people in a way that intrigues them and highlights their humanity, and see into the person, even if you don’t know the back story,” Morton said. “He’s considered one of the preeminent photographers in Denver in the 1980s and 1990s. The work he produced during that time is considered (to be) like the documentation of Denver.”