Tommy Edison works as a traffic reporter for a radio station in Connecticut, critiques movies and takes photographs.
He is also blind.
“I’m doing a lot of things I’m not supposed to do,” said Edison. “I’m a traffic reporter. You hear that and you think, ‘That’s not right.’ Now I’m taking photos, and again, it’s not something I’m supposed to do.”
But Edison says he’s always enjoyed breaking the rules.
“I guess I’m not breaking any bloody rules, I’m just breaking paradigms.”
Throughout the day, Edison snaps photos of whatever inspires him — a tree, a bird or an object in his office — and posts the images on Instagram. Since he joined the popular photo-sharing site last spring, Edison — who goes by the name of Blindfilmcritic — has more than 13,000 Instagram followers.
“I took a picture at work and it’s got 130 likes. I don’t know, it just blows my mind that people are interested,” said Edison. “I can’t believe people want to look at it.”
So how does a blind person take photos, edit and share them on Instagram? By setting his iPhone to “Accessibility” mode, Edison can have each button’s function dictated to him. Before he makes a selection, the voice-activated software tells him to tap an icon twice.
“I want to show you the world my way — show you what I’m supposed to be seeing,” said Edison.
Before he started photographing the world around him, Edison reviewed films for the Blind Film Critic, his online series, with friend and filmmaker Ben Churchill. The site includes candid videos — inside glimpses — of Edison’s daily life. Many of the videos answer viewers’ questions, such as “Why is there Braille on the drive-through ATM?” or explain how to describe color to a blind person. In one video, Edison shares the story of how his parents told him he was blind.
Growing up with three sisters in Greenwich, Conn., Edison said he was treated just like any other kid. He learned how to ride a two-wheeler and attended public school.
“To us, my family, it was normal,” he said. “It was all I knew.”
The idea to critique movies was born one evening after he complained of watching action films. Churchill suggested he watch and review the original ”Die Hard.”
“Tommy said he always thought it’d be cool to review movies from his point of view. So I said, ‘Let’s do it!’”, said Churchill. “We had no idea how it was going to turn out.”
In 2011, the two caught the midnight showing of ”Scream 4.” Afterward, Churchill fired up his camera as Edison listened to movie clips. He began describing scenes in the movie and for one moment in the review, the screen went black to convey what Edison saw and heard throughout the movie.
“People really got an idea of his perspective, and they were very inspired by that,” said Churchill, who works as the producer, director and editor for videos featured on the website. “He didn’t let the fact that something so visual get in the way.”
Since the creation of the Blind Film Critic, Edison has been endorsed by movie critic Roger Ebert. Churchill said the feedback has been positive overall with a few “haters.”
Like many movie critics, Edison closes his reviews with a sign-off: ”I give this film two out of four eyes open. Thanks for watching, show-offs!”