Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

She has an artist's insight

Legally blind photographer thankful for CNIB

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Tara Miller has an eye for photography.

She discovered her talent in her high school's photography program when she was 15. Today, Miller owns her own commercial photography company with her husband, Jeff. It's called 100 Acre Woods Photography.

She was even shortlisted in a national photography contest last year.

By the way, Miller is legally blind.

"People will look at my photographs and say immediately, 'No, you didn't take that. It's impossible.' But I've stopped defending my work and my vision problems because it's a part of who I am," she says.

She was born with congenital rubella syndrome. She contracted it in the womb when her mother was exposed to someone with the German measles.

As a result, Miller was born totally blind and with cataracts. At age one, she underwent an operation that would allow her to gain partial vision in both eyes.

"When my parents discovered that I had these vision issues, my grandmother had the good foresight to sign me up with the Canadian National Institute for the Blind. It really has been such a great thing, because when I was younger, I'd get teased for my vision problems," Miller says.

"And later in my life, they taught me really basic skills, like how to cross the street safely, how to do housework. It's really an incredibly organization."

The CNIB was there for her during a particularly hard time -- when she began losing her vision again at age 15 due to glaucoma.

"It was incredibly hard because at that point, I had fallen in love with photography and I was very creative. It was like a death," she said.

Years later, when her husband went back to school to become a photographer, Miller rediscovered her passion for taking pictures.

"Jeff would bring home assignments, and just from memory I knew how to use the f-stops and I'd start helping him. I was really hesitant at first because I didn't have the confidence any more. But the CNIB really encouraged me to find a way to do it again."

Today, Miller sees mostly shadows in her right eye and has only partial vision in her left. "It's like having tunnel vision," she explained.

She has memorized every function of her camera. She's able to take photos based on the small amount of vision she has and on instinct.

"I can zoom really far into an image when I'm editing it. Say I'm shooting some ducks -- I use my hearing to sense where they're flying and follow them with my camera. When I'm setting up lights, it's like geometry. I can instinctively tell where the light should fall. It's all about adapting."

Miller said her clients are incredibly understanding and open to her as a partially blind photographer.

"They are really very accepting. But really, my work speaks for itself, so they can see that I'm good at what I do."

The CNIB can offer such its vital services thanks to the generous support of the United Way. Last year, United Way donated more than $400,000 to the CNIB.

Today, Miller volunteers as the CNIB's in-house photographer. "It's my way of giving back because they have given me so much, including the confidence to get back behind the camera."

-- -- --

Doug Finkbeiner, the 2012 United Way campaign chairman, said there is still $2.9 million to go to hit this year's campaign goal. Even with commitments of personal gifts and workplace contributions still to come this year, there is an estimated shortfall of about $300,000. That could jeopardize the viability of programs and services United Way supports.

Finkbeiner said he's grateful for the donations to this point in the holiday season, but he challenged those who haven't given to step up and help United Way reach its annual goal.

"I'm sure there are still a lot of people who have the capacity to give that haven't given before, and we'd welcome them to join the others and participate."

Donations can be made at www.unitedwaywinnipeg.ca.

katherine.dow@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 15, 2012 B3

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