3DPhotoWorks Brings Great Art To The Blind

Art belongs to everyone and enlightenment is available to all. Thus we present 3DPhotoWorks, a project that aims to bring the “world’s greatest art” to the blind. The team, led by John Olson wants to convert famous paintings into digitally sculpted objects that blind people can touch and experience.

Olson became a Life Magazine photographer at 21 and in 1968 he shot world-renowned photos of the Tet Offensive. He understood how important visuals were to learning and life and he “wonder what it was like to be blind,” he said.

“I researched the blind community and found an incredible thirst’ for all things visual. Using Dr. Paul Bach-y-Rita’s research into neuroplasticity as reference, I developed a means of converting and then digitally sculpting images to provide tactile feedback that blind people repeatedly told him they could ‘see,'” he said.

The resulting sculptures offer amazing detail and are museum quality so they can be handled and enjoyed for years. Olson is trying to raise a lofty $500,000 to bring a number of these paintings to museums around the world.

This stuff isn’t cheap and Olson is essentially asking for you to be a patron of the arts. Because they can’t quite use 3D printing yet, each painting has to be specially carved and built to offer maximum detail. If you submit a $5,000, $7,500 or $10,000 pledge the company will send your favorite art to a museum of your choice. For $3,000 they will make you your own tactile art piece based on your own photograph. While you probably can’t go around touching all of the paintings in a museum, a 3D Mona Lisa or Washington Crossing the Delaware is fair game for everything, blind and sighted alike.

“To blind people, the ability to see art on their own represents independence, equality and freedom,” said Olson. “3D tactile printing allows them to establish their own opinions, make their own determinations and form their own conclusions. They no longer need to rely on an author’s words, accept a docent’s point of view or take an educator’s equation for granted.”