Picturing Wonderland

Sunday 23:00

Alfie Elms | 
2022 | 
United Kingdom | 
8:24 mins | 
Picturing Wonderland reflects a collaboration between the filmmakers and Maud Rowell, an experimental snapshot of the experience of living with a degenerative blindness. The film explores Maud’s fascinating relationship with the colours of the world around her as well as the use of the medium of analogue photography as a form of documentation and hobby. Shot on 16mm colour film by Finn Boxer, incorporating hand crafted animation techniques by Ana Studios, lighting design by Satu Streatfield and an original score by Patrick Fitzgerald, Picturing Wonderland provides the viewer with a deeply sensual portrait. Running through the film is a monologue narrated by Maud herself, a wonderfully written and powerful piece of prose detailing her own experience with blindness, colour and photography.


by Cole Diment

Picturing Wonderland, by Alfie Elms and featuring photographer Maud Rowell, takes us into the world of blindness, film and creativity. The film is interested in creating a space where differing forms of blindness might be understood by sighted people. As such, it troubles the notions and borders of whole, default sight that many of us think we are born with. Sight and sight loss are very different the film and Maud Rowell than they are for most.

The chief aim of the film is to dispel the common misconception of sight loss. The film opens on the topic of blackness. As Rowell says, this conception of blindness, as infinite yet near blackness, smoothes over the multi-faceted experiences of sight loss. For Maud this manifests in a vision that’s covered in oscillating dots, flickering between light and dark. Objects appear in contour yet without fine detail.

The use of form in this film, 16mm film, allows us to apprehend the fragility and sensuous nature of this experience. Using the 16mm form, the filmmakers graft and inscribe onto the film itself. Firstly, this gives the impression of the sight Rowell may behold. It parallels it in evocation so as to let us understand the experience of Rowell’s vision. Secondly, and most intriguingly, the process of grafting onto film produces an image of something never captured through light but produced within the very technology that makes the image. As such, the scratches and colours that pervade the film partake in a similar process to Rowell’s vision; not captured from without but an internal process of change and alteration.

It seems that in this process sight loss is not an adequate way to describe Rowell’s interaction with the world. On a fundamental, phenomenal level it is, and we must never lose our understanding of how differently sighted people are maligned in a sighted world. But Rowell’s metaphorical “inner sight” is one that seems sharpened, matured by an experience that changes the contours of subjectivity and place within the world. There is much to learn here from differently sighted people.