Samsung Photo Exhibit Showcases Work by Blind Children

Cheil Exec Discovers Sight Not Only Sense That Leads to Beautiful Pictures

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Kate Oh, vice president-executive creative director of Cheil Worldwide, was struck by a picture she saw in a friend's office -- a child with his ear up to a camera.

"My friend, a professional photographer, said blind people do take photos with their sense of hearing, smell and touch. I was deeply moved and that was the start," Ms. Oh said in an email interview with Ad Age .

Cheil helped organize "Insight Exhibition" last month in Seoul, featuring work by 11 students from the Hanbit School for the Blind. Cheil said the exhibit "shows Samsung Electronics' philosophy -- technology makes people happy."

Cheil originally started as Samsung's in-house advertising agency but in recent years has sought to differentiate itself from its key client. Cheil was behind the subway-station virtual-store campaign for Tesco that won the media Grand Prix at Cannes last year. The agency has also brought in industry veteran and former W&K exec Buz Sawyer to build its reputation in the Americas.

For the exhibition, students were teamed with professional photographer Kang Young-ho and taught to take photos using different senses.

Project organizers prepared sophisticated cameras that can automatically track and capture the subject of a photo, along with a function that takes the photo when the subject is smiling. But the students surprised everyone with their tech know-how.

"The moment they received cameras and listened to the brief explanation, they learned everything instinctively and became very skillful," Ms. Oh said. "Then I realized that the kids are such an IT-friendly generation, even though they cannot see."

"Visually impaired children usually have a better sense of hearing, smell and touch," she continued. "Even for me, with perfect eyesight, it's not easy to get a good picture of a fast-moving cat. But amazingly, these children took the shot simply by listening to the cat's movement."

The budding photographers began snapping pictures around their school and homes. Samsung and Cheil took them to Jeju island, a volcanic island off the coast of South Korea. It was the first time on a plane for some of the students.

"Jeju Island is a perfect fit for our purpose," Ms. Oh said. "The island is well known for its strong wind and granite. One can easily find reeds taller than one's height and can of course smell the sea everywhere."

Some photos feature nature, with reeds bending in the wind or birds in flight. One picture is of train tracks shrouded in fog. Another is of a boy's feet, toes curled into wet sand.

Samsung and Cheil plan to continue the program -- a precondition from the principal at the Hanbit school.

"The principal ... wanted to make sure that it does not end as a one-off event," Ms. Oh said. "We were also asked to organize the course without hurting children's feelings. Some parents were concerned with the scheduled trip to Jeju Island, but [most were] very excited about the new project. Since every child needed one assistant teacher, we could not accommodate too many. We had a good start though, so plan to work with more children for the next occasion. "

See more of the images from the exhibit.

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