When you picture what a blind person sees, what do you imagine? Do you see light and shadows? Do you see colors? Do you see nothing at all? An all-too-common misconception is that all forms of visual impairment have the same effects. But in reality, vision loss is an incredibly variable experience, both in terms of its causes and how it affects one's sight.
To better understand what it's like to live with vision loss, we spoke with five visually impaired women with very different conditions. Some women see shapes and shadows; others sees complete darkness. Some acquired their impairments as children; others lost their sight in adulthood. They discussed their everyday lives, how they navigate the world, and, most importantly, how their blindness has helped shape who they are, but hasn't held them back.
In addition, photographer Melody Melamed
shot the women's portraits to show how others see them. Then, photographic artist Liz Nielsen
, working with handmade negatives and found light sources, created images inspired by how these women see the world in order to present their unique perspectives.
Click through to meet each of these extraordinary women, and discover what it's really like to live with a visual impairment. Interviews have been edited for length and clarity.