Are you sure that the world you see in colour is the same one I see?

I always suspected there was more to the film Matrix than meets the eye………

Are you sure that the world you see in colour is the same one I see; your answer is probably yes. In reality one should probably so no!
The more science begins to understand the connection between what we see as our perception of reality, particularly that which is developed through language and culture. The less certain it is that we all see the world in the same way. For example, there is a tribe in Namibia called the Himba who have fewer words for various shades of colour than English-speaking people’s; they didn’t need them. There are certain colours they cannot see and it is not colour blindness. They just do not have a word in their language that describes that colour so the brain does not see it. Give them a colour wheel containing a uniform set of colour patches but include one colour they do not have a word for; they will not distinguish this different colour from the rest. Hard to believe but has been demonstrated through independent testing; colour and language are inextricably combined. Remember, a child does not fully see colour until it is several weeks old and then learns through language to differentiate colours.
One of the things most artists learn quite quickly is an understanding of the colour wheel and complimentary colours. The other is, where dark and light should be perceived within an image and how it is interpreted by the viewer. Unfortunately, this can have some unexpected consequences.
For photography this can be manifest in an undesirable magenta cast with certain ink and paper combinations under differing light. For traditional gelatine silver papers it showed as a green cast on fibre papers, which needed selenium toning or a change of developer to remove it. Both problems could be removed with careful consideration of the lighting used when viewing the image.
J M W Turner exploited the play of light and human perception of its qualities with great success in a lot of his painting. The Morning after the Deluge c. 1843 is a fine example. He utilised his understanding of colour to create drama and depth within this painting. Strip away that colour and all one is left with is a bland canvas, devoid of shadows and subtle shades of light.
Black & White photography removes the distraction and interpretation of colour and allows the brain to concentrate on detail. Which is why a lot of the best war photography is in B&W; it focuses the mind on the subject matter and avoids the distraction of colour perception. What do I mean by that; take the popularity of HDR imaging, it is not reality and can be quite disturbing for some. So my first decision has been, do I like the colour and if not, then the image gets ignored, no matter how good it may have been. The impact the photographer was trying to impart has instantly been lost, I don’t like the colour so I ignore the picture.
This is not to say that B&W does not have its problems, more so these days with the advent of digital and screen viewing. One of the things I hate is black shadows and glowing whites, E6 slide film wrongly exposed gave this with a vengeance. Bad printing could give what was known as the ‘soot & chalk’ look, hence the phrase – expose for the shadows and develop for the high lights. Unfortunately for people like me who are somewhat challenged when it comes to scanning; a negative that prints well, does not always scan well.
If you have been kind and patient enough to get here. Please make more time and watch the following YouTube video, which will demonstrate that what one sees is not always reality. It is but an interpretation, given by a particular set of circumstances.

I know it is yet another long one – sorry but the world does not revolve around sound bites…..


9 thoughts on “Are you sure that the world you see in colour is the same one I see?

    1. Glad you enjoyed it Marina,
      Speech and visual perception is another strange phenomena, if just hearing the sound ‘Ba’ with eyes close it sounds like Ba. But open the eyes and watch someone still saying Ba but forming the lips as if saying ‘Far’ you will hear FAR!!! the eye has overridden what the ear heard. The McGurk effect.
      All is not what it seems ….. 😉


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