Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Partial Colour Blindness; Unripe Bannanas; And A Bright Green Dog Called Courage!

I was diagnosed with Colour Vision Deficiency at an early age after Mum noticed that I had crayoned a cocker spaniel dog bright green.

Cross breeding is very popular nowadays. For example, a cross between a Pekingese and a Poodle is often referred to as a Peekapoo. Another popular cross is the Goldendoodle which is a cross between a poodle and a golden retriever.

Given the rise in deliberate cross breeding I am inclined to believe that if you cross bred a green mutated cockateel (called Buddy) with a cocker spaniel then you would get a cockagreenspaniel.

Mum decided to take me for a test to see if I was colourblind.The test was named after the man who invented it - Dr. Shinobu Ishihara, a professor at the University of Tokyo. This is what the Ishihara test looked like.

The dots are coloured in different shades and a number is hidden inside with shades of another colour. The number '74' should be clearly visible to viewers with normal color vision. Viewers with colour vision defiency may read it as '21'

Unfortunately, I could only see the number '21' which meant that I was colour deficient.

Colour Vison Deficency occurs in about 8 - 12% of males of European origin, and is a condition in which certain colours cannot be distinguished. There is no treatment for colour deficiency.

A t-shirt designer recently used the Ishihara test to help make colour sighted people more aware of this frustrating condition. However, being red/green deficient I am unable to read what it says. This is what the t-shirt looks like ..

Maybe one day I will invent a t-shirt which only colour deficient people can read and it will say 'I AM A MIRACLE'

Below is an example of  a reverse colour deficiency test. Only color deficient people like me can actually read what is written in the picture. That means, if you fail the test, you probably have the full range of color sensitivity that is attributed to color-sighted people.

There are two major types of colour blindness: those who have difficulty distinguishing between red and green, and those who have difficulty distinguishing between blue and yellow. I don't really like being called colour blind, because if I was totally colour-blind  I would live in a black and white world, and I would own a white Labrador dog called Blackie.The dog would wear a lycra costume like super dog and would sit in the front passenger seat of the car, and warn me at traffic lights; barking once for red- meaning STOP and twice for green- meaning GO!

Actually, a superdog would be pointless , because I recently discovered that  they too suffer from colour deficiency. Below is a photograph of red/green deficient dogs playing superheroes.

I sometimes  feel embarassed when people refer to me as colour blind. I prefer using the term colour deficient because this implies that I have a condition where certain colours cannot be distinguished, unlike colour blindness which implies that I cannot see colour at all.

Heres how it works; I own a coffee mug with the words FUCK IT written on the side (See left). I have learnt that certain colours are associated with objects, like grass is green, and sky is blue, and bananas are yellow. So, I see the word FUCK in the same way I see a post box, and I know that a post box is red,so therefore the word FUCK must be red too. I see the word IT in the same way I see grass that has been bleached by the sun, so the word IT is green, because I know that grass is green. You may have the same associations, but we are actually seeing the colours differently from each other.

Here are some things that bother me about living with colour deficiency:

  • When grilling a piece of meat I cannot tell whether it is raw or cooked.
  • Biting into unripe bananas - I cannot tell if they are yellow or green.
  • Cooked spinach looks like cow pat.
  • I struggle to distinguish autumn colours.
  • I can't see all the colours of a rainbow. However, I do enjoy the colours of a rainbow that I can see. This is a rainbow ..  

  • Shopping alone for clothes. There is always the risk of looking like a clown.

  • Co-ordinating my wardrobe - One time I got so frustrated that I gathered all the clothes in my arms and threw them on the floor and jumped all over them smashing all the hangers into a million pieces. My ex girlfriend Helen helped me make a little red book full of weird and wonderful outfits, to save me having to choose what to wear. It was a bit like a meal plan, but instead of food it consisted of clothes, with distinguishable features like stars or stripes or a label.This meant that on any given day, I could pick an outfit without having to throw a tantrum.  
These are some things I would never become:

An electrician like Dad because they wire things up and colours are important to them, especially if they want to stay alive.

Aeroplane pilot -This could be tricky because they use colour coded glide path indicators on runways, and I may end up landing the plane on the roof of somebody's house. 
    Painter and decorator. The thought of having to mix paint makes gives me a migraine. It’s the in-betweenie pastel colours that irritate me. The ones on the swatch cards that all look the same ( that couples argue over when choosing what colour to paint the living room.)

    A fashion advisor like Gok Wan - my clients would end up looking worse than ever, and probably commit sucicide, and I would be sued by the vicitims families.

    The reason I know I could never be Gok  is because in the mid 80's  I blagged my way into a Saturday job as a sales assistant in a men’s clothing store.
    Unfortuntately, back then  bright/ neon colour was big business which meant BIG trouble for people like me.

    Everything was soooo BIG  in the 1980's- BIG hair, BIG shoulder pads, BIG phones. ( It's true - the mobile phone was as BIG as a house brick, and was a status symbol for yuppies.Yuppie was short for young urban professional - a term that first came into use in the 1980s, which refers to a financially secure, upper-middle-class young person in their twenties or thirties.)
    I quickly developed a  system of working that would have made even Gok proud. When customers asked for a specific colour, I would keep holding up items until they nodded. When the customer nodded it meant we had a colour match. 
    If the customer asked me to choose an alternative for them, I would randomly pick up items of clothing and convince the customer to buy it. This is a sample conversation...

    Me; 'now this shirt really suits your skin tone.
    Them; 'Do you really think so',
    Me;' It makes you look like Simon Le Bon'. (Simon Le Bon was the good looking singer from 80's pop group Duran Duran)

    The Simon Le Bon comment was usually enough to make the sale.

    Sadly, I decided to retire early from fashion consultancy, after a woman from the local housing estate, threatened to beat me up for selling a lime green sweater with flourescent pink trim to her colour deficient boyfriend. Ooops!

     An optimist is a person who sees a green light everywhere, while a pessimist sees only the red stoplight... the truly wise person is colorblind. Albert Schweitzer

    During my time at big school, art teacher Mr Pomfret  had taken me under his wing, and encouraged me to avoid colours entirely and draw using only a pencil.

    The following year at big school, art teacher Mr Shakelton encouraged me to draw using black ink pen, and introduced me to the wacky world of blue and yellow poster paint.  
    Shaks was a cranky, odd, sorta fella. He had a record player linked up to a pair of battered old speakers in the classroom, and loved to play Madam butterfly, claiming that it would stir up the creative juices. Something must have stirred because later that year I was awarded the school art prize. A £5.00 voucher to spend at WHSmith. 

    Soon after that, I discovered photography. Dad was a keen photographer, and occasionally he would let me tinker around with his camera.. That christmas I recieved my first proper camera ; a second hand 35mm Single lens reflex Pentax ME Super with a 50mm 1.7 lens. It was top bananas! 

    One weekend I was invited to join my tutor Mr Doidge and Wally- my best mate, on a photographic expedition to Martin Mere (which is a bird sanctuary in the middle of nowhere.) It was here, I made my first pictures. Mr Doidge said that I had a natural eye for composition. (Mr Doidge ended up doing sex with Wally’s Mum who was a dinner lady at the big school, and during my final year  he was hit by a cricket ball on the head and died.)

    Being a handy man, Dad built me a proper darkroom. Now Im not talking about one of them makeshift bathroom conversions where you stick in a red bulb and place your developer and fixer trays inbetween the matey bubble bath and rubber duck. This was a proper darkroom in the back yard. It had work tops, and a permanent red light, and drawers for photographic paper. It even had a state of the art intercom system so that Mum could let me know when my tea was ready.

    Nige .. Your teas ready
    Nige .. I’m putting it out
    Nige.. Its going cold
    Nige .. If you don’t come and get this blood dinner its going in the bin!

    The darkroom became my secret hideaway. A place where I could go and forget about the world,and experiment with techniques like pseudo-solarization ( The effect was usually cause by exposing film to light before before processing.) Here is one of my favourite pseudo solarized pictures...

    I enjoyed black and white photography, but desperately wanted to experiment with colour. I was convinced that if I could master colour then I could achieve my goals. So I spent the next few years trying to get rid of colour deficiency, but nothing worked because it doesn't go anywhere. I ended up feeling completely inadequate- caged by CVD, unable to fully express myself creatively for fear of being ridiculed.

    Then, one day I thought about my cockagreenspaniel and smiled. To the rest of the world the dog was brown, but in my world the dog was definately green.

    It was time to offer people another way of looking at things, but to allow this to happen I would first have to say YES to colour deficiency, so thats exactly what I did. I said YES and embraced it wholeheartedly- started to fill my world with colour. There could be no compromise! With self acceptance, my confidence increased and so did belief in my talents and ablilites. Frustration quickly transformed into fruition, and I started to see the world through new eyes.

    The goal of the heroes journey is yourself, finding yourself' Joseph Campbell

     My images are simple, strong, and colourful with impact.

    I make a picture...

    And when that one is complete I make another one...

    And another...

    Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
    Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.

    It is our light not our darkness that most frightens us.

    We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous,

    talented and fabulous?
    Actually, who are you not to be?

    You are a child of God.

    Your playing small does not serve the world.

    There's nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other

    people won't feel insecure around you.

    We were born to make manifest the glory of

    God that is within us.

    It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone.

    And as we let our own light shine,
    we unconsciously give other people
    permission to do the same.

    As we are liberated from our own fear,
    Our presence automatically liberates others.

    —Marianne Williamson

    Im so glad that I became friends with 'that green dog'.

    Click on the link below to check out Nige's photography ...


    Peter Martin said...

    Hi Mate! I've always wondered how this "Colour Deficiency" worked, simplistically I just though - if I get taught that grass is green, and phone boxes are red, then why can't you? But now I understand that little bit more from your perspective, thanks!

    Elloa said...

    Not only are you a gifted photographer, but you're also a brilliant - and I mean BRILLIANT - writer. Funny, poignant, childlike, beautiful post.

    No wonder I'm so in love with you xxx

    Brooke said...

    OOps got an error message. Did you get my comment. Here it is again just in case.

    I was blown away by this post and by your photography. Can't wait to explore it more in a minute. I was laughing so hard. I am in a coffee shop, and I know everyone wants of piece of my happiness! Elloa said it perfectly. Read her comment a thousand times, because she said is so perfectly! Thank you for being you! So thankful we crossed paths!
    Thank you for your lightness and depth, that together give this world such beauty!

    on to the next post! Yipee!

    wali sheikh said...

    good post. helped me realize that i too am color deficient.

    ps. what does the reverse test say? i can vaguely make out symbols but not quite.


    Nige said...

    Hi Wali,
    Thanks for reading my blog. The reverse colour test says NO - but only the colour deficient can actually see the word. People with normal colour vision just see a square full of coloured dots.

    wali sheikh said...

    Yeup, decided it was a 'NO' right before reading your comment. And the other one's pretty much a '21'.

    It's not that bad though. I have a bright orange couch that's pretty much orange, and I've learnt to poke bananas to decide if they're ripe or not.

    I'm a fan!


    Elloa said...

    Something has happened to me.... I can see the word NO in the colour deficient test! I can still see the 21... have I turned colour deficient?!

    babybusa said...

    The shirt you posted you cannot see actually says "fuck the color blind" spelled exactly as that. I dare not ask where you found it!