When Andrew Larson first picked up a camera and took a picture, it opened up a whole new world of opportunities he never thought he’d get the chance to experience.
After all, art was something he had always believed was beyond his reach.
“Being legally blind, and a photographer — I’m essentially an oxymoron,” he said with a laugh. “I guess you could say I’m a rather unique individual, to say the least.”
What that first photograph allowed him to do was see the world in a whole new way, as well as give him a chance to study images in close detail, something he couldn’t do before.
“With me, because of my blindness, real life was kind of like looking at a slightly out-of-focus picture,” he explained. “So I don’t always get every little thing. Or when I do, I really have to kind of work for it. So photography kind of became fascinating for me.”
Still unsure he could make it in an artist’s world, Larson briefly walked away from the lens for a career in information technology.
But after graduating from Fanshawe, his creativity was once again sparked after his mom bought him his first SLR camera, a Canon 50D, as a graduation gift.
“It’s kind of all gone spiraling from there,” he said.
Born with Albinism, Larson’s vision with correction is approximately 160/20, meaning if someone with perfect sight was standing 160 ft. from an object, they would be seeing it roughly the same as he would if he were only 20 ft. away.
So when it comes to capturing his images, Larson has to do things a little differently.
One thing he’s learned in particular after watching others, is that his work generally takes a lot more time.
“For me to determine sharpness it takes a lot longer, and it takes a lot of effort,” he said. “I’ve been told several times that I use whatever vision I have well beyond what most people use of theirs. Ironically, one of the marks of being a good photographer is taking the time to make sure you get what you wanted.”
Completely self-taught, Larson has managed to turn his passion into an active career, creating images and covering several events including an Indy car race in Long Beach California. One of the greatest experiences he says he’s ever had to learn as a photographer.
“You’re lucky if there’s one piece of cement barrier separating you and those cars. It changes your whole perspective,” he said. “I probably grew more in those three days than I have in years.”
Besides his love of shooting sports, Larson also enjoys working on the commercial side of things, whether it’s working with models, taking business portraits, or even event photography.
And when it comes to meeting clients for the first time, their expression is exactly what you’d expect.
“They kind of look at me and go, “How, why?” “That’s impossible.” “You’re kidding.” Sometimes I’ll take off my glasses and try to read something to prove it to them,” he explained. “There’s a kind of a mix for me of pride and joy in that . . . but there’s also a bit of sadness in there. Why can’t a person, regardless of what barriers they have — couldn’t they theoretically do this?”
Fact is, not only can Larson do it, he teaches it as well.
“My true dream would be basically to travel the world and tell stories of people that have faced barriers like mine, or worse, and have been able to overcome them,” he said. “The first thing I teach in my class is it’s not about what kind of camera you have, but how you use it. It’s not the equipment, but the photographer that makes the picture, regardless of any challenges they may face.”