Visually impaired photographer spreads message of perseverance

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT)- The way you see the world, depends on where you've been. Tod Sheley has been all over the United States, traveling with his band. Sheley was the drummer before the band broke up a few years back. "I was visiting all these cities and I wanted to capture it."

Now, he see's the world through a camera lens."I have trouble seeing the sky sometimes because the blue looks grey to me," he said. For Sheley, it's not about what he sees, but rather how he sees it.

"I'm blind in this eye and I can see 50% in this eye- but I'm color blind," he explained. He was diagnosed with congenital rubella syndrome as a baby. It caused the partial blindness, some hearing loss and developmental delays.

"I was born, went home, 3 days later was back in the hospital...the doctor said 'He's a puzzle. I just can't figure out what's going on with him.'" The condition separated him from other kids his age, starting from his first day in school.

"I was always the kid that had a speech therapist to come talk to me. I was always taken out of class getting tested...At that moment, I knew I was a little different."

Darkness came in different forms. He was bullied and struggled transitioning into the adult world.

"It was traumatizing for me at times," described Sheley. "People make such a big deal about eye contact, job interviews, dating, whatever. Nothing is worse when you need eye contact and you're like, 'Can I give you that?'"

After his band broke up, he searched for a purpose.

"I sat outside with my mom and I thought I'm not good at anything." He had to dig deeper. What he was good at, he didn't see right away.

"The day I got that camera everything opened up," said Sheley. He was given a camera from a family he dog sat for. That camera changed his life. His photo's angles are slightly off and his colors aren't always the same, but that's what makes his photos stand out. "Photography to me is the only thing that stops time. You can stop time with a camera," said Sheley.

It's more than just these images he's hoping to share. He wants others in similar situations to see hope.

"We're so used to being criticized you're not fast enough, you're not good enough," he explained. "We have a tendency to remember what's negative and we have a tendency to forget what's good about us."

For Sheley he's been through darkness, but he see's the light.

"What I learned from photography was I can't dwell on the bad because I'm going to have haters, but I have people who love what I do and I need to focus on the good."

Sheley is hoping to get enough funding to open an art gallery where artists of all abilities can share their work. Tod shares his photos on his Instagram account tsheleyphotography. You can also find many of them for sale at Maple Hall on Gay Street.