Leon Borensztein is a Polish-born photographer who for over 30 years has been photographing his severely-disabled daughter, Sharon. She has optic nerve hypoplasia (underdeveloped optic nerves), seizure disorders and is legally blind. Borensztein says because of his difficulties growing up as a Jewish person in post-Holocaust Poland, he wants to give a “voice to the voiceless.” Borensztein says he’s trying to paint a full portrait of what life is like for those living with severe mental disabilities. “I’m going to show how beautiful and attractive she is, but also how disabled she is,” he says.
After enduring bullying and harassment in Poland during the 1960’s, Borensztein moved to Israel to attend a university, and eventually settled in Oakland in the 1970’s. Borensztein has been working as a photographer ever since. Borensztein, who resides in the Crocker Highlands district of Oakland, has taught photography at the California College of Arts and Craft in Oakland and the San Francisco Art Institute.