A blind person is probably the least person you’d expect to be a photographer. SHOT IN THE DARK is an intimate portrait of three successful artists who have one thing in common: visual impairment as a starting point for their visual explorations. This film poses fundamental questions about seeing and the imagination and enriches our understanding of perception and creation. We all close our eyes in sleep, the sighted and blind alike, and in our dreams – we see.
Sonia Soberats, Pete Eckert, Bruce Hall
Directed by Frank Amann
Book: Frank Amann
Cinematography: Frank Amann
Editing: Bernd Euscher, Gesa Marten
Sound: Shinya Kitamura, Sebastian Tesch, Martin Steyer
Music: FM unit
Production: Weltfilm GmbH, Kristina Konrad, Christian Frosch
Funded by: BKM, Filmstiftung NRW (Gerd Ruge grant and production funding), FFA (script funding), WDR/ Arte
“Shot in the Dark” (2016) is Frank Amann’s first directorial work.
Films as DoP/ Image Designer: Rival, feature film, 96 min., Förderpreis Neues Deutsches Kino 2020 – Murer-Anatomie eines Prozesses, feature film 137 min., Österreichischer Filmpreis 2019 – Raus, documentary, 86 min., Granit (Best Documentary) IFT Hof 2018, Was uns bindet, feature documentary 102 min, Best Documentary Diagonale Graz 2017 – Von jetzt an kein Zurück, feature film 100 min, Golden Iris Award EFF Brussels, nominated for the German Film Critics Award 2015, Wiedersehen mit Brundibar, documentary 90 min, nominated for the Prix Europa 2013.
It was a coincidence. I came across the work of blind photographers Sonia Soberats, Pete Eckert and Bruce Hall while preparing a coming-of-age feature film about a blind teenager, Camera Obscura (ESP, 2011). As the film’s cinematographer, I was discussing with the director, Maru Solores, how blind people experience the world around them, whether they feel impressions of light, see fantasy or dream images, and how we could translate that into the language of our feature film. While doing further research, I came across the catalogue of an exhibition, Sight Unseen at the California Museum of Photography. It presented the photography of fifteen blind artists.
Many of these images had a powerful effect on me, occuping a disturbing place in my mind that stayed with me well after the research. On a filming trip to the USA, I decided to call two of the artists, Pete Eckert and Bruce Hall. We subsequently met and quickly discovered that we had more in common than we thought and had animated conversations about questions like: how do our ideas form in our heads? How do we find our images before we even release the camera? What shape do the images finally take in the photographic material, what surprises emerge during the process of photography? Which partly uncontrollable dynamics are part of this process? For the blind photographers, everything arises from the power of imagination. “I also see my pictures with my eyes,” says Pete Eckert, “only with the eyes of others.” The triangle of artist – artwork – viewer shifts dizzyingly with the practice of these blind visionaries.
I increasingly hoped to discover something new, something previously unknown to me about the creation of photographs and the phenomenon of light in an exchange with these artists. Paradoxically, it seemed it was precisely the lack of light that made them appreciate the beauty and diversity of light? Did the play with light become a pleasurable end in itself for the blind artists? Did the limitations of blindness turn into an aesthetic liberation? Their obsession with images was at least as great as mine. My decision had been made – I had to explore this visual yearning in a documentary film.
“Frank Amann’s documentary succeeds brilliantly in making the sensual experiences of the blind comprehensible, using, of all things, a visual medium.”
Jonathan Horstmann, Süddeutsche Zeitung
“A totally new way of seeing, both in terms of the film, which is a visual work of art, and the artworks themselves – I have never seen anything quite like it.”
Knut Elstermann, Radio One, Berlin
“Astonishing and electrifying.”
Niko Vialkowitsch, SWR Television
“Blind photographers operate at the heart of the medium; they are the zero point of photography. These artists occupy the pure, immaculate center — image as idea, idea as image”
Douglas McCulloh, photographer and curator, Los Angeles
“Seeing the images to me was like a psychedelic trip.”
FM Einheit, composer and musician (Einstürzende Neubauten)
One World Festival Prag, IDF Kassel, IDF Wexford, This Human World Festival Wien, Bir Duino Festival Bishkek Kirgistan.
Best Director, Birduino Fim Festival Bishkek.