February 2013, Volume 17, Number 1


Milton Young taking photos
Photo by MDC Photography Professor Tony Chirinos. Although blind, MDC student Milton Young is able to take photographs unassisted, relying on his other senses to set up shots and create meaningful images. His classmates then help him with elements of processing and printing.

Capturing Life From a Different Angle

Photo of a cane
Milton Young’s class project centered on photos of his cane in a vivid, creative attempt to make the viewer feel what he is experiencing in his daily life.

Miami Dade College student Milton Young can’t see at all out of his right eye, and he can only make out “gray and cloudy with some shadow” in his left eye, but his vision for the future is crystal clear.

Young’s plan is to earn a degree from MDC, land a job in psychology and continue his newfound passion for photography, a most surprising hobby for someone who is blind.

Unique Learning Environment

Young credits MDC for giving him hope for a brighter future, even at age 60. The College helped him discover his talent in Professor Tony Chirinos’ pilot program at Kendall Campus that teams blind and visually impaired students with those who don’t have visual impairments. Young takes all his photographs himself, then teams with classmates for mixing chemicals and exposing the prints properly.

“This is a unique place,” he said, “because it gives so many people a chance to try new classes and earn degrees that will help prepare them for new careers.”

Due to a hereditary disease called advanced open-angled glaucoma, Young started to lose his sight at age 53. When his condition worsened, he lost his job as an operations analyst for Royal Caribbean cruise line. A widower father of three college-educated children, he admits he felt lost and depressed for a couple of years after losing employment.

But that’s where MDC came in, and Young has had extraordinary success both academically and personally.

Determined to Excel

“I’ve had a lot of people try to discourage me from going back to school,” said Young, who has a 4.0 grade-point average. “But that just makes me want to prove them wrong.”

Young not only is confounding those skeptics, he also is serving as an inspiration to everyone in his class.

“Milton has taken the challenge of being our first visually impaired photography student,” Chirinos said. “Most photographers make images based only on their visual senses. But what kind of images would we make if we first use the other senses, such as smell, sound and touch? That’s what we are finding out, and the results have exceeded my expectations.”

A Helping Hand

Chirinos said Young’s success in his class would not have happened without the help of Elizabeth Smith, the director of Kendall Campus’ ACCESS (A Comprehensive Center for Exceptional Student Services), an MDC program that assists students with disabilities. Smith and her staff nominated Young for Chirinos’ innovative photography program.

Young’s class project centered on photos of his cane in a vivid and creative attempt to make the viewer feel what he is experiencing in his daily life. Young said he had an “instinctive sense” of what he wanted to shoot.

Chirinos said Young’s photos have been stunning, but the bigger picture is more important.

“Deep inside,” Chirinos said, “I want all our students to really appreciate sight and how precious it is to all of us.”

— WV

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