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Pingelapese children ride back from a picnic on one of the uninhabited small islands around Pingelap. Photograpjer Sanne De Wilde uses infrared filters and camera settings to create a luminous effect. PHOTOGRAPH BY SANNE DE WILDE, NOOR

On Island of the Colorblind, Paradise Has a Different Hue

Hirdetés

An island in the Pacific has a unique genetic history that affects how it understands color.

 

Pingelapese children ride back from a picnic on one of the uninhabited small islands around Pingelap. Photograpjer Sanne De Wilde uses infrared filters and camera settings to create a luminous effect.
PHOTOGRAPH BY SANNE DE WILDE, NOOR

Pingelap Atoll, the Micronesian island in the South Pacific, sometimes goes by its other name, The Island of the Colorblind. That’s the moniker Oliver Sacks assigned the island in his 1996 book that explored the human brain. Pingelap piqued the interest of Sacks and many other scientists for its strange genetic circumstance. According to legend, a devastating typhoon in 1775 caused a population bottleneck. One of the survivors, the ruler, carried a rare gene for a extreme type of colorblindness. Eventually, he passed the gene to the island’s future generations.

Today, roughly 10 percent of the island’s people are still believed to hold the gene for the condition, known as complete achromatopsia, a rate significantly higher than the 1 in 30,000 occurrence elsewhere in the world. But 10 percent is also low enough that the concept of color—and who can see it—has acquired new meaning among people in Pingelap.

Jaynard, who is colorblind, plays in the garden with the branch of a banana tree. “He’s wearing the mask I made for him for Halloween,” De Wilde writes. “He loved it so he kept putting it on days after.”
PHOTOGRAPH BY SANNE DE WILDE, NOOR

 

 

Belgian photographer Sanne De Wilde has used the island and the concept of colorblindness to inspire a series of images on genetics. During a visit to Pingelap in 2015, she created a series of photos showing the world as a colorblind person might see. Some images were complete black and white. But some achromatopes also claimed they could see slight variations of some colors, like red or blue. So she used infrared photo settings and lenses on her camera to distort and mute certain colors. Then, in a stroke of artistry, she invited some of the sufferers to paint over some of the images with watercolors to reflect how they saw the world.

The challenge of vision impairment, of course, is that it’s hard to understand something the eye has never seen. What is orange to a person who only knows black and white? “Color is just a word to those who cannot see it,” De Wilde observed. So once back from the island she created in her Amsterdam studio an installation as a form of reverse osmosis, to simulate colorblindness. Visitors were invited to paint using colors that never seem to appear. And then later, to their surprise and bewilderment, they were confronted with their blindly colorful artwork.

Eric, who is color blind, reacts to the light while posing for a portrait lit by flashlight. There is only solar electricity on Pingelap, so at night everyone walks with flashlights. “I asked him to hold still and look at the light,” De Wilde writes.

De Wilde took this photograph of a parrot as a ‘tropical’ symbol for colors. The black and white image was later colored by an achromatope not aware of which colors she was using.
PHOTOGRAPH BY SANNE DE WILDE, NOOR

“On the island they burn all the trash,” De Wilde writes. “At the same time, holding and moving around a burning branch is good to keep the mosquitos away.” This photograph of a Pingelpaese child holding a burning object was taken in black and white, then watercolored by someone with achromatopic vision. PHOTOGRAPH BY SANNE DE WILDE, NOOR

Jaynard, who is colorblind, plays with a disco light De Wilde brought from Belgium. “I asked him what he saw,” she writes. “He answered ‘colors’ and kept staring into the light.”
PHOTOGRAPH BY SANNE DE WILDE, NOOR

“What I’m really trying to do is to invite people to a new way of seeing and interacting with the world,” says De Wilde. Her other projects, about albinism and dwarfism, occupy the same overlap of genetics, geography, and social stigma. But there’s something primal about vision, the eyes as the body’s first ambassadors to the world. A project about color becomes a project about perspective, and how two people’s are never quite the same.

Two Pingelapese boys wade to shore with their catch, holding the fish out of the water to protect them from sharks. The fish is eaten raw, and as in Japan, is called sashimi.
PHOTOGRAPH BY SANNE DE WILDE, NOOR

ON ISLAND OF THE COLORBLIND, PARADISE HAS A DIFFERENT HUE

ON ISLAND OF THE COLORBLIND, PARADISE HAS A DIFFERENT HUE

ON ISLAND OF THE COLORBLIND, PARADISE HAS A DIFFERENT HUE

ON ISLAND OF THE COLORBLIND, PARADISE HAS A DIFFERENT HUE

ON ISLAND OF THE COLORBLIND, PARADISE HAS A DIFFERENT HUE

ON ISLAND OF THE COLORBLIND, PARADISE HAS A DIFFERENT HUE

Sanne De Wilde’s book, The Island of the Colorblind, is available for purchase from joint publishers Uitgeverij Kanibaal and Kehrer Verlag.

Daniel Stone is an editor for National Geographic magazine, where he covers science, technology, and agriculture. His book, The Food Explorer, on the life and adventures of food spy David Fairchild, will be released on February 20, 2018. FOLLOW DANIEL

Source and Images: ng.com

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