KC Thru a Photographers Eyes

Saverio Bruno’s photos do not show a scene the way it is, but “the vision I get through my eyes, and the emotion I get through my mind“.


My name is Saverio Bruno.  I am a man, a father, and a KC’er.  And I am a Photographer. I grew up holding cameras and shooting photos. My father was a photographer and so photography was a very common skill in my family, and today my children carry on this tradition.

I began using a small format camera when I was about ten years old.   Later, my father gave me a gift: the very heavy and very manual Zenith E, my first reflex camera. Starting from that moment, I shot pictures.  My camera was always with me.

tribute-to-klimt

A Tribute to Klimt

Time passed and I grew up, got a degree and got married. My eyesight was perfect: in Italy, we say “11/10” (in the US system “20/20”).  Being an amateur photographer, shooting photos was a hobby for me, a skill used during holidays, birthdays, and family events.

The first time I noticed a problem with my eyes was during my honeymoon in the US in 1996.   We rented a car and drove from San Francisco to Orlando, a great road trip.  At that time, I had a good Yashica camera with a couple of great lenses. I didn’t realize anything was wrong until, while developing the film, I found a large portion of frames were out of focus.   I didn’t know it at the time, but my camera discovered my KC before the doctors did. I thought it was strange, but I didn’t give too much importance to those shots. The problem didn’t go away (of course) and over time, the percentage of bad photos increased until without realizing why, I switched to a compact camera.  I bought a Kodak APS format, good enough to document the nice moments of my life.

A year later, my wife noticed that I was squinting while watching TV.  I went to the doctor and she just said I needed glasses. When four months later I had the same problem again, the doctor just changed my prescription, saying my eyes were probably just getting adapted to glasses.  Six months later my eyesight was bad again, and then I finally realized something was really wrong. The diagnosis was almost immediate and confirmed by two doctors, I had Keratoconus.

As with many other KC’ers, I didn’t know anything about this disorder and I didn’t accept my destiny. I spent lots of money and time traveling all around Italy to hear the same words over and over, until I finally realized there was nothing I could do, but to live at my best with what vision I had.

But what about photography? In the meantime, my cameras were getting old and dusty in a drawer. Shooting with manual focus was impossible for me and the compact camera was just boring. My whole set of beautiful lenses was not being used, including my father’s precious Rolleiflex 6×6 with Schneider lens. Besides focusing problems, I started refusing any activity strictly related to my sight. I was struggling to get better vision wearing RGP contact lenses. I hated my eyes and wanted literally to forget about them. I completely quit using my cameras and, even during festivities, my wife became the family’s “designated photographer”.

In 2000, my wife bought me a gift: a Canon reflex with a basic auto-focus lens.  It was a nice gesture and gave me the push to get back to shooting photos again, but… I just didn’t feel those photos were mine: they had no character and the printout from laboratories did not reflect the new vision of the world my KC eyes were giving to me. I did realize my eyes were different, and my alien vision couldn’t be just printed out like any other “normal” image! After a few months, even this camera just went into the drawer with the others.

Meanwhile, I was busy and life went on with me as a civilian IT Specialist for the US Navy.   I became an Internet/Web developer and expert on computer graphics. With a big monitor (20″) right in front of my face, I had no problem working with images. To better perform my job, I also needed to shoot occasional photographs and I started getting experience with digital cameras: Sony, Nikon and Olympus.   Shooting photos with the first generation of digital cameras was like shooting today’s photos with cell phones!   They document events, but that’s not photography, at least… not my kind of photography!

This story next brings me to 2003, when my wife and I decided to go our separate ways.  At that time, I became friends with Edo, a Glamour photographer.   I believe there are some people who appear on our life for a specific reason: it’s related to our Karma or destiny.  These people are, in a certain way, our “guardian angels”. Most of the time these people are not even aware of their role in our life, but they’re just there, at the right time and the right place with the right attitude. My friend, Edo, was there for me.

I’ve never been an “artistic photographer”, I was more a “photo-reporter” of nice happenings and, even if I knew Adams, Newton and Cartier-Bresson, I didn’t know anything about other great Masters such as Diane Arbus or Mary Ellen Mark. Seeing Edo’s photo books, watching the way he was using the camera and the way he was editing images, the hidden switch behind my eyes was turned “on”, and the darkness that was falling away, there was a new light: I finally realized there were still many ways I could use my “rotten” eyes.

I bought a good digital camera and started shooting, shooting, and shooting some more… and I have never stopped!

 

tango

Tango

 

My photos today do not show reality the way it is, but show the vision I do get through my eyes, and the emotion I get through my mind.   I love to hyper-contrast my photos, to show them on black and white, as well as ultra-saturated, to “shake” them to reflect my vision, to change perspective, to display common views in an uncommon way.  The sight of my camera is now my own sight, and even if my eyes don’t work well, it doesn’t matter because I have the lens working for me. My camera is like my eyes now, and my photos reflect not just the visual image, but the emotion I get from it.

With my camera, I do shoot traditional photos, but sometimes, I start to “disassemble” the common technique and create something different, something new, something special, something mine… as is my KC.   And it’s even more! Since I started shooting that way, my spirit became too thirsty to be satisfied keeping them for myself: I want to show my work to everybody.  Actually, it’s a need more than a desire.  I need people to see my work so I can shout “I can see, so I can see I can feel, so I can feel I can do!”  I don’t know if this is art, if I’m a real artist,  or if people will ever love my photos: what I do know is that without KC,  my creative shooting spirit probably would not be part of who I am today. And if that’s not enough to love my eyes and their disease, I can say it is quite enough to go ahead, to live a very full life.

I have many doubts today about my future, but there’s one thing I know for sure: I’ll keep shooting!

Saverio Bruno, a long time member of KC-Link, lives and works in Italy.

Read the amazing story of Saverio Bruno, who turned his camera into his eyes by photographing what he sees with Keratoconus.