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The Photographer's Eye

(how the photographer must cope
with loss of his eyesight)

For the past twenty years, Sunil Janah and his wife, Dr. Sobha Janah, have lived in London, England. They share a house with Dr. Brian Watson, a (younger) British biochemist and antiques collector, who has become part of their family, and taken on many of the filial duties. The Janahs' biological son and daughter live in Brooklyn, New York, and Menlo Park, California, respectively.

A few years back, while in New York, working strenuously on what was to be an aborted venture to get a book of his photographs published there, he suffered a sudden onset of crippling pains in his upper body, accompanied by a marked loss of vision. The precise cause was never ascertained, although doctors suspected a minor stroke. The pains eventually receded. The loss of vision did not.

We learned then, with surprise, that he had gone through most of his life, and composed all his photographs, with just one properly functioning eye. His other eye had been rendered almost useless at a very early age, probably by undetected glaucoma (a pressure build-up that damages retinal nerve cells).

He has subsequently undergone a series of surgeries, including several on his eyes. Surprisingly, he has somehow managed, through all this, to practise photography. Increasingly, however, this has centered around darkroom work.

Now, at age eighty, despite health problems and very limited vision in his one working eye, he continues to work on prints for his upcoming exhibition. He still does his enlargements himself, laboring to achieve the technical perfection that he had attained earlier. His assistant, in retouching the myriad streaks and spots from the older negatives, is his wife, whose vision, though better than his, must be sorely taxed by this Agean task.

Note Added, 1998.07.20

We were saddened to learn, at the time of this writing (July 20, '98), that Sunil Janah, while in hospital recovering from surgery, has suffered yet another blow. An aggravation of iritis in his one working eye has led to an almost complete loss of vision. While able to see light and dark, he can no longer see shapes with his "good" eye. He must rely, for now, on vestigial clues from his other eye.

He had been making (and repeatedly remaking) prints for the upcoming exhibition until the day before his surgery.

We hope, and pray, that he will get back his vision, which, through his photographs, he has shared with so many of us.

Progress, 1998.08.23

Mr. Janah's vision has improved. Although he still sees the world "as through a ground glass", he is now able to make his way about, and read large print. ;-)

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