Patient Spotlight - Seeing through a whole new light

Aaron Shafer, patient at the WMU Low Vision Clinic, has been visiting regularly for the past 10 years. In November 2007, Aaron was diagnosed with Stargardt disease, a condition that causes blindness in the central field of vision. Since his diagnosis, Aaron's visual acuity has reduced to roughly 20/200 and he is considered to be legally blind. But that hasn’t stopped him from achieving his goals and tapping in to his creative side.

Aaron began his study of photography in early 2014 when he got his first camera and quickly learned to cherish his lens as both a new tool for creativity, as well as a literal extension of his eyes. Developing unique skills with his camera, Aaron has learned how to capture precise moments of action sports based on rhythm and sound. Everything Aaron has learned about photography has developed from experimentation, collaboration with other artists and independent research.

It doesn’t stop there. Recently, Aaron has started experimenting with large-scale wood burning. He has the ability to create beautifully detailed pieces with some old wood pallets, a torch, some small tools and magnifying devices.

“I’m taking things that destroy – like fire and knives – to create. There should be more when you look up-close, small details are a surprise,” says Shafer. “My vision loss has given me this bottled fire. I’ve honed in and it’s given me inner focus. Although I cannot focus with my eyes, I can focus from within myself.”

Aaron’s work will be displayed in the April Art Hop in downtown Kalamazoo at the Consumers Credit Union at 125 South Kalamazoo Mall, Suite 104.

“Without the WMU Vision Clinic, I wouldn’t be able to do a lot of things without tools I’ve gotten here,” said Aaron. “I’m hoping to start driving soon with the help of bioptic driving glasses.”