THE SEX FILES: “Seeing” A Tactile Mind

Lisa J. Murphy, a Canadian-based photographer, put together a book called Tactile Mind. It’s quite a unique work of erotica, in that Lisa sculpted- ‘thermoformed’ (more on that below)-a self published book of nude images for the blind. Pictures and grade-one (American) English Braille accompany her thermoformed images and sculptures, so blind, vision impaired, and sighted individuals can exclusively enjoy all the naughtiness of Tactile Mind. As far as I know, Lisa’s book is the first and only of is kind, she is getting mad attention on this old Interweb thing, so I thought, why not talk to her and get the skinny.

I was sent info about the book by a vision-impaired friend; I must say it’s a pretty unique publication. I’m not aware of other erotica like this for vision-impaired folks.

Yes, I think that’s why it has garnered so much attention.

I know the book is thermoformed, can you explain what that term means?

Thermoforming is a process where at a high heat, heavy Braillon (thermoform plastic) is vacuum formed over a Braille page/tactile diagram; creating a thermoform diagram page.

And what is a 3-D Tactile image?

A 3-D tactile image is a raised image that can be read by touch.

Do you mind that TM is seen as both a work of art and a work of erotica? Do you separate the two?

People have their own opinions on this work. I think it is amazing that this book has orchestrated international dialogue, and has started to illustrate what is lacking in society for those with disabilities. For me, it’s just what I feel is a cool book of my nude photographs, made accessible to those without sight. People have been calling it erotic, fetish orientated, pornography, original art…then there’s those people who don’t like it at all. As with anything, people either like or dislike it.

Describe to a sighted person like me, how Braille pictures are processed by a blind person? I understand how people ‘read’ with Braille, but to ‘see’ a picture?

Unless you read Braille, or have a sight impairment and rely heavily on your sense of touch, I don’t think it is possible to know how a picture is processed by a blind person. It is like someone who is blind, asking how you process a visual photograph.  Each of the tactile images in the book took approximately 50 hours to make. They were made with clay and other materials, and then I had the thermoformed images proofread by blind proofreaders to make sure my photographs were illustrated correctly.  Lots of alterations had to be done to the sculptures, to accentuate or diminish details that weren’t necessarily visible but could be felt by sensitive fingertips.

Do you plan more tactile minds? On the web I have seen it referred to as a magazine.

This is the one and only ‘Tactile Mind.’ People have called it a magazine. I call it a book.

I’m assuming TM came from your work photographing nudes for the blind, how did you come to do that work?

Yes.  I photographed nudes as an artist, and decided to take the knowledge I had of making tactile diagrams for the blind and combine them.

What are your projects for the future?

It’s a secret.

Secret or not, I’m sure whatever Lisa has planned it will be pretty peachy keen. I thank her for her time and her great work providing the very unique images of Tactile Minds.

Let your fingers do the walking here: www.tactilemindbook.com

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