Meet blind photographer Cathy Browne

Behind the lens

Cathy Browne is a talented lifestyle, travel and events photographer and vice-chair of the Persons with Disabilities Advisory Committee for the City of Vancouver.

Browne has been working as a public-relations professional for four decades and, not one to sit idly by, in recent years updated her skills to become something of a social media maven. Browne is also legally blind.

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The feisty strawberry blond was born in Montreal, graduated from McGill University with a degree in the classics (Greek and Latin) and lived in Toronto, Ottawa and Silicon Valley before moving to Vancouver in 2009.

In a quest to find out more about the petite photographer, Lifetime Magazine did some digging into Browne’s life, past and present, by way of a Q&A.


Q: Tell us about your work with the Persons with Disabilities Advisory Committee for the City of Vancouver.
A: We’re a group of 14 very dedicated and passionate volunteers who have a variety of disabilities. We’re lawyers, teachers, advocates, coaches and more. We work with city staff, numerous organizations and persons with disabilities to identify barriers and advise the mayor and council on creating solutions to make Vancouver a truly accessible and inclusive community. I’m proud to have been involved for almost five years.

Q: How did you get involved?

A: I was actually interested in joining TransLink’s user group, but there wasn’t an opening. It was suggested that I looked into PDAC — and the rest is history, as they say.

Q: So, you’re legally blind, but take beautifully composed photographs. How does that work?
A: It’s hard for me to explain how I take my photos, except for the fact that I’ve always been extremely visual and detail-oriented because I’ve had to be. I was two pounds at birth, and my eyes were permanently damaged by too much oxygen in the incubator, so I adapted and absorbed the world around me by picking up visual cues.
I don’t often get paid for what I do — and I’m hoping some exposure can help change that. I do what I do because I love it — but I’m also making a point — that I produce good work and I should be paid for it. And I’m good, take a look: flickr.com/photos/cathybrowne/albums

Lifetime
Street scenes and landscapes are popular subjects of Cathy Browne's photography. Photo Cathy Browne

Q: Have you always been a photographer?
A: For years, like most people, I took photos of vacations, family events, that sort of thing. That began to change 10 years ago when I was in Taiwan and Japan on business and realized that I didn’t just want to take random pictures anymore. I wanted to tell a story through what I saw. It’s a mindset that I carry through to this day. I care about every photo I take.
The other reason my photography has become such a passion was actually due to losing my husband Dave Kane after more than 20 years with a debilitating heart condition. We were married almost 30 years, and losing him was very, very hard. I needed to channel my energies and emotions, to find myself, to save myself — and I do believe I have done that.

Q: Do you have a favourite subject to shoot — besides your cats?

Lifetime
Rain on a rose. Photo Cathy Browne

 

A: I probably take way too many pictures of my cats — but there’s much more to me than that. I love shooting food, I love cocktail competitions, of all things, I love travel and the interesting architecture I find along the way, I love capturing people in the moment and I love sharing the beauty of Vancouver.

Q: You are such a social butterfly. How is it you are at so many events?

A: From the moment I arrived in Vancouver, I developed connections through social media and I’ve become part of a very caring, supportive community that has always included me. And for the last several months I’ve been a contributing writer/photographer for MyVanCity.ca, which has given me access to a variety of events.

Q: Tell us about your blog, cathybrowne.com.

A: My blog, Seeing Things is in a state of flux right now. I’m working on making it more photo-centric to properly reflect who I am and what I’m doing. I actually use other platforms including Twitter, Facebook, Flickr and Instagram to showcase my work at the moment.

 

Q: What’s next for you? What’s on your bucket list?
A: So many things! I want to help small businesses and non-profits tell their stories, I want to capture the lives of seniors in photos because I don’t think we celebrate them enough, I want to travel (hence the need for paid work!), I want to do more public speaking because I have a story to tell, and I want to inspire others to do what stirs their souls. But I do NOT want to be known as an “inspiration.” To me, it’s a label that diminishes the act of inspiring, and it’s not what I want to be.

@sthomas10

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