Imraan Gallo wears tinted spectacles with refractive lenses to assist with his loss of vision. Picture: Supplied
Imraan Gallo wears tinted spectacles with refractive lenses to assist with his loss of vision. Picture: Supplied

Meet Cape Town’s legally blind photographer

By Keshia Africa Time of article published Sep 26, 2021

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IMRAAN Gallo is the legally blind photographer. A paradox to some but essential for a man dedicated to mastery of the art, one picture at a time.

Gallo has only 15% of his vision. He was diagnosed with glaucoma when he was 15 years old. Doctors warned him that his vision would continue to deteriorate as he got older.

This year Blind SA celebrates its 75th anniversary and will host a conference in November to champion the cause of blind and partially sighted people in SA like Gallo.

“I never gave much thought to it because I never understood the illness. But as time progressed, I researched it,” he said. “That’s when I realised that glaucoma is incurable.”

Glaucoma doesn’t affect the eyeball itself, but instead causes damage to the nerve, leaving it infected.

Gallo said, “the nerve is dying”.

“When I was diagnosed and spent time with my doctors, they told me it’s inevitable that I would go blind,” he said.

Gallo has had two trabeculectomy surgeries where the pressure inside the eye is lowered. Although the condition can be influenced by genetics, this is not the case for Gallo.

The 33-year-old, who is originally from Cape Town, was raised in Johannesburg and completed his schooling and post-matric studies there.

He studied mechanical engineering at the Vaal University of Technology and drafting at the College of Cape Town. Due to his condition, he had to leave his studies to take care of his health.

Gallo returned to Cape Town in 2012 and worked as a designer in mechanical engineering until 2018, when his condition forced him into retirement.

It was here that he decided to pursue portrait and product photography.

“Photography has always been a hobby of mine. I sold my Xbox in 2012 so that I could buy my first camera – a Canon 400D.”

Gallo was 24 when he began doing photography, nine years after his diagnosis. He said at the time, his vision had already deteriorated.

“I don’t know what it’s like to do photography with good eyesight. I don’t know it any other way.

“I enjoy the process of photography. I enjoy learning and understanding light and how I can use it to light something in a flattering way.”

Gallo said the most difficult part about losing most of his vision was giving up his job.

“I love design and I was always intrigued by mechanical systems from a young age.

“I always wanted to be a designer. I loved being able to create something physical from a mental picture and that’s where photography taps in.”

Gallo said the most challenging part about photography was people not understanding that he was capable of doing the job despite his visual impairment.

“There’s a stigma attached to my disability.”

Gallo said he lives by a simple saying: “I refuse to go blind without seeing the world.”

His goal for the future is to own a photography studio that can be used by others too.

“One day I won’t have any vision left, but then I can rent the space to other creatives. I want the space to be available to students for free.”

His advice to people with disabilities is to do what makes them happy.

“Don’t worry about the money. If you do what you love, you’ll never have to work a day in your life."

For more information on the 75th Anniversary Conference and Exhibition, to be held from November 10 – 12 see blindsa.org.za

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