The first sign of what is to come at Dr. Howard Rosenblum’s office in West Nashville is the colorful, back-lit art installation in the shape of the human eye. The artwork includes dozens of framed photographs that were taken by the doctor during one of his underwater adventures. A television screen in the waiting area showcases a slide show of more photos of sharks, coral, fish and other sea creatures.
More than most vision specialists, the man who hangs photographs and sculptures in his Nashville office is obsessed with art, especially exploring his own.
“I consider myself a serious hobbyist,” Dr Rosenblum said. “I’m fascinated by vision and light.”
Rosenblum is a graduate of Hillsboro High School, where as a senior he took a course on perception and how people experience and interpret things.
When it comes to capturing underwater images, he started diving at an early age. In 2008 he got re-certified along with his kids.
“I was scuba certified when I was 17 in 1971 at the downtown YMCA here in Nashville. Went diving off St. John’s in the Virgin Islands when in college, but then took a 35 year hiatus while life was busy.
“I grew up watching Sea Hunt and Jacques Cousteau,” Rosenblum said. “Why be an astronaut when you can enjoy being weightless and visit colorful alien beings while on vacation!”
In an environmental climate in which corals and micro-organisms at the base of the marine food chain are being destroyed by carbon dioxide based emissions, divers and photographers like Rosenblum are documenting areas designated as marine preserves.
Rosenblum enjoys showing people what’s down there in places most people never see.
“The rule for the individual diver is ‘take only photos and leave only bubbles.’ Touch nothing,” said Rosenblum. “Many areas do not even allow divers to wear gloves in an effort to deter people from touching the corals. Most marine preserves do not allow fishing, or only in certain seasons, lobster, for instance.”
Rosenblum values his own vision, and realizes that he is fortunate to be in a profession that helps preserve or restore the vision of his patients.
Interestingly, a few years ago he met a blind diver.
“We dived together and he held the hand of our dive master. He had been a diver in the past. He had also been an Israeli physician. I was shocked to learn that he had lost his vision when a terrorist blew herself up in front of him in a shopping mall. He had only limited form vision, but he was overjoyed to see the colors of the reef again.”
People often ask Rosenblum if the color in his photos is “real”.
“When you dive even below just 15 feet, the colors are absorbed by the water as the light passes from the surface and then is reflected from your subject to your eyes. At 80 feet, the naked eye sees mostly in shades of blue and black – until you shine a light on them up close. What may look like a dull black coral, can reveal itself to be a radiant red!”
The doctor gets satisfaction knowing that many people actually enjoy sitting in his waiting room while watching the slide show.
“I have a captive audience!”