Most experiences that would lead a physician to truly empathize are lived, not taught: Kicking an addiction to a substance or activity. Living with chronic pain or fatigue. Menstrual cramps. Physical disabilities that limit mobility. The list is, of course, almost infinite in its possibilities, but what often gets overlooked is vision itself.

I got glasses in the second grade, after a teacher called on me to answer the math problem on the board. My answer was swift, full of confidence, and completely wrong, since I couldn’t make out the problem in question. I had never considered my vision to be in need of correction until that moment. How could I compare my vision to someone else’s? I had only ever lived with mine. I thought everyone squinted and un-squinted on highways to make the lights into larger and smaller sunbursts.

It sounds trivial, and for me, it was – I’ve been wearing glasses and contacts ever since, an easy fix available with the resources I had. But I’ve seen adult patients diagnosed with myopia (nearsightedness), and can only imagine the obstacles they faced, all the while thinking it was normal to not be able to make out details on signs, faces, and books. But though I can only imagine the obstacles, in this moment I can empathize with them, wandering through life with a fuzzy disconnect.

This project was an attempt for me to make this empathy possible for someone else, to show the world as those of us who are nearsighted see it. Photos taken with vaseline-smeared saran wrap over lens. Original exhibit May 2015.


Originally from Seattle, WA, Angela graduated from Duke University (’15) with a self-designed major in Mass Media & Cross-Cultural Perception.